Ornette Coleman

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Ornette Coleman

Ornette Coleman plays his alto saxophone at The Hague, 1994
Background information
Born March 9, 1930 (1930-03-09) (age 84)
Fort Worth, Texas, United States
Genres Jazz
Occupations musician, composer
Instruments alto saxophone
tenor saxophone
violin
trumpet
Years active 1958-present
Website ornettecoleman.com

Ornette Coleman (born March 9, 1930[1]) is an American jazz musician. He plays the saxophone, violin and trumpet. He is also a composer. He was one of the people that helped make a new jazz style called free jazz, in the 1960s. Coleman's music is also like blues music. His album Sound Grammar won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for music.

Early career[change | change source]

Coleman was born in Fort Worth, Texas. He began playing R&B and bebop music, at first on the tenor saxophone. He wanted to leave his home town so he got a job in 1949 with a traveling show. Then he played with touring R&B shows. In Baton Rouge, he was attacked and his saxophone was destroyed.[2] After that he changed to the alto saxophone, and that is still the instrument he usually plays. He joined a band and traveled with them to Los Angeles, in California. He worked at different jobs while still trying to be successful as a musician.

From the start, Coleman played his music differently to other musicians. Some Los Angeles jazz musicians thought he was playing out of tune. In 1958 Coleman made a record called Something Else!!!!: The Music of Ornette Coleman. Other musicians like Don Cherry, Billy Higgins, Don Payne and Walter Norris also played on the record.[1]

The Shape of Jazz to Come[change | change source]

Ornette Coleman at a concert in October 2005 in Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Germany

Coleman was very busy in 1959. His made a record called Tomorrow Is the Question!. He played on this ecord with a quartet. He did not play with a piano player. He started working with a record label called Atlantic Records. He made a record called The Shape of Jazz to Come in 1959. A music critic called Steve Huey said it was a very important jazz record.[3] The album was different from other jazz music.[4]

Coleman's quartet played at a jazz club in New York City. They were popular with other musicians like Leonard Bernstein and Lionel Hampton. Other musicians like Miles Davis did not like his music.[5]

Coleman often played a plastic saxophone. He had first bought a plastic one in Los Angeles in 1954 because he could not afford a metal one. He did not like the sound of the plastic saxophone at first.[6] Now he plays a metal saxophone.[7]

Free Jazz[change | change source]

In 1960, Coleman made a record called Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation. It was nearly 40 minutes long. It is one of the longest jazz performances on a record. It was an important record in jazz and now there is a jazz style called free jazz.

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 allmusic Biography
  2. Spellman, A. B. (1985 originally 1966). Four Lives in the Bebop Business. Limelight. pp. 98–101. ISBN 0-87910-042-7.
  3. Huey, Steve. "The Shape of Jazz To Come". http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=Artkxikbhbb39.
  4. "Ornette Coleman biography on Europe Jazz Network". http://www.ejn.it/mus/coleman.htm.
  5. Rodriguez, Juan (June 20, 2009). "Ornette Coleman, jazz's free spirit". The Montreal Gazette (The Montreal Gazette). http://www.montrealgazette.com/story_print.html?id=1713495&sponsor=. Retrieved 2009-06-29.
  6. Litweiler p.31
  7. "Ornette Coleman". Last.fm Ltd.. http://www.last.fm/music/Ornette+Coleman. Retrieved 2009-06-29.