Avant-garde jazz (also known as avant-jazz) is a style of music and improvisation that combines avant-garde art music and composition with jazz. It originated in the 1950s and developed through the 1960s. Originally synonymous with free jazz, much avant-garde jazz was distinct from that style.
Avant-garde jazz originated in the mid- to late 1950s among a group of improvisors who rejected the conventions of bebop and post bop in an effort to blur the division between the written and the spontaneous. It came to be applied to music differing from free jazz, emphasizing structure and organization by the use of composed melodies, shifting but nevertheless predetermined meters and tonalities, and distinctions between soloists and accompaniment. Musicians identified with this early stage of the style include Cecil Taylor, Lennie Tristano, Jimmy Giuffre, Sun Ra, and Ornette Coleman.
John Coltrane's experimental work was influential during this decade. Alice Coltrane, his wife, was an advocate along with other saxophonists Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders and Albert Ayler. In Chicago, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians began pursuing their own variety of avant-garde jazz. The AACM musicians (Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Hamid Drake, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago) tended towards eclecticism. Poet Amiri Baraka, an important figure in the Black Arts Movement, recorded spoken word tracks with the New York Art Quartet ("Black Dada Nihilismus," 1964, ESP) and Sonny Murray ("Black Art," 1965, Jihad).