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Ornette Coleman

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Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman plays his alto saxophone at The Hague, 1994
Ornette Coleman plays his alto saxophone at The Hague, 1994
Background information
Born(1930-03-09)March 9, 1930
Fort Worth, Texas, United States
DiedJune 11, 2015(2015-06-11) (aged 85)
New York City, United States
Occupation(s)musician, composer
Instrumentsalto saxophone
tenor saxophone
Years active1958-present

Randolph Denard Ornette Coleman (March 9, 1930[1] – June 11, 2015) was 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.

Death[change | change source]

Coleman died of a cardiac arrest at the age of 85 in New York City on June 11, 2015.[8]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 allmusic Biography
  2. Spellman, A. B. (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". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 2019-09-13. Retrieved 2010-03-09.
  4. "Ornette Coleman biography on Europe Jazz Network". Archived from the original on 2010-11-24. Retrieved 2010-03-09.
  5. Rodriguez, Juan (June 20, 2009). "Ornette Coleman, jazz's free spirit". The Montreal Gazette. The Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 2009-06-29.[permanent dead link]
  6. Litweiler p.31
  7. "Ornette Coleman". Last.fm Ltd. Retrieved 2009-06-29.
  8. Ratliff, Ben (June 11, 2015). "Ornette Coleman, Jazz Innovator, Dies at 85". The New York Times. Retrieved June 11, 2015.