Ornette Coleman

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Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman plays his alto saxophone at The Hague, 1994
Background information
Born (1930-03-09)March 9, 1930
Fort Worth, Texas, United States
Died June 11, 2015(2015-06-11) (aged 85)
New York City, United States
Genres Jazz
Occupations musician, composer
Instruments alto saxophone
tenor saxophone
violin
trumpet
Years active 1958-present
Website ornettecoleman.com

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.

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.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. Huey, Steve. "The Shape of Jazz To Come". 
  4. "Ornette Coleman biography on Europe Jazz Network". 
  5. Rodriguez, Juan (June 20, 2009). "Ornette Coleman, jazz's free spirit". The Montreal Gazette. The Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  6. Litweiler p.31
  7. "Ornette Coleman". Last.fm Ltd. Retrieved 2009-06-29.