|Name & Pictures||
(Randolph Denard) Ornette Coleman (1930-2015)
(Photo by Tom Beetz, taken July 9, 2010)
(Caravan of Dreams, Fort Worth, TX, 1985
(The Roots at the Royal Festival Hall, June 13, 2009)
(Photo by Nomo Michael Hoefner)
(Photo by Bruno Bollaert, taken July 8, 2010)
(Photo by Tom Beetz, taken July 9, 2010)
| alto saxophone
(Caravan of Dreams, Fort Worth, TX, 1985, Photo by Craig Howell)
Harmolodics (word derived from "harmony," "movement," and "melody")
recorded debut album "Something Else!!!!: The Music of Ornette Coleman" for Les Koenig's Contemporary Records (1958)
followed up by "Tomorrow Is The Question" (1959)
early supporters of Coleman, besides John Lewis, included, the conductor Leonard Bernstein, the jazz critics Nat Hentoff and Martin Williams and the composer Gunther Schuller, the last three all wrote for the magazine The Jazz Review
Coleman and his quartet (Don Cherry 🍒 on pocket trumpet, double bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Billy Higgins) came to New York City for a two-week engagement (stretching to ten weeks) at the Five Spot Cafe in November 1959 with Leonard Bernstein, Gunther Schuller, Neshui and Ahmet Ertegun, John Hammond and almost every musician in town in the audience on the first night
occasionally used a non-tempered musical scale with notes sounding at a natural rather than a well-tempered pitch, abandonment of chord changes and the conventions of the 32-bar AABA song form and emphasizing group improvisational interplay
From 1959 through the 1960's, viewed as “either a visionary or a charlatan, and there was no middle ground between advocacy and disapproval”
His alto saxophone playing had a “suppleness of phrasing and (a) keening vox-humana quality of his intonation”
“(Colemen's) music looked back through the jazz tradition with its collective improvisations and its personal, speechlike approach to intonation and phrasing, so much like the ensemble and solo styles of the early Southern and Southwestern blues and jazz musicians. . . . In twelve years the style had become classic, distilled into the kind of unique, breathtaking perfection . . . ” (bold not in original)
“Despite the nonstandard details of the situation (Coleman playing a white plastic alto saxophone, exploiting modal rather than chordal approaches to improvisation, and so forth), Coleman's early work mobilizes traditional forms and rhythms: Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins provide recognizable, solid foundation for Coleman's and Cherry's improvisational experimentation. This might explain why Coleman was drawn into the pantheon of jazz (despite rancorous controversy) in a way that Albert Ayler was not.” (bold not in original)
recorded "The Shape of Jazz to Come" (1959) and the first track, Lonely Woman, became a jazz standard
original group signed to Atlantic Records where the essential music was finished within a short time recording his third album "The Shape Of Jazz To Come" (1959), fourth album "Change Of The Century" (1959), fifth album "This Is Our Music" (1961), sixth album "Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation" with Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, seventh album "Ornette!" (1961), and eighth album "Ornette On Tenor" (1961),
released "Free Jazz" (1960), an album containing performances by eight musicians:
toured England 🇬🇧, France 🇫🇷, and Sweden 🇸🇪 (1965), “setting in motion an avant-garde jazz movement in Europe that continued unabated for decades”
Downbeat magazine Hall of Fame, Reader's Poll (1969)
composed "Skies of America,"
(1972) a full-length work for soloist and symphony orchestra, performed by the London Philharmonic (1972) with the U.S. premiere at the Newport-in-New York jazz festival at Lincoln Center with the American Symphony Orchestra (July 1972)
(Saturday Night Live 1979 photo courtesy NBC)Prime Time double quartet with two guitarists, two drummers, two bassists, and Coleman on sax, violin and trumpet (circa 1975)
National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters Fellowship (1984)
reunited with original quartet for album "In All Languages" (1987)
composed his classical work, "Freedom Symbol: La Statue (The Country That Gave the Freedom Symbol to America)," (1989), a composition commissioned by the French government and inspired by the Statue of Liberty
featured performer and composer of several of the soundtracks for “Naked Lunch,” a film of the William S. Burroughs's novel by filmmaker David Cronenberg together with music composed by Howard Shore (1991)
started Harmolodics label (1994-97)
inducted as Officier (Officer) in France's Order of Arts and Letters (1998)
Awarded the Praemium Imperiale Prize for Music, Japan Art Association, Tokyo a prize worth ¥15 million, about $130,000, given under the patronage of Prince Hitachi of Japan, the brother of Emperor Akihito and presented by former French prime minister, Raymond Barre, who is on the board of the Japan Art Association (2001)
Gish Prize (2004)
over 50 recordings
Honorary Doctor of Music Degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, with 44th President of the United States Barack Obama in attendance (2010)
"Everything is Music: A Riverside Church Farewell to Ornette Coleman," by Hank Williams, July 6, 2015
- For musical examples see:
‣ "Essential Solos: 40 Great Improvisations: (100) Jazz artists and critics pick their favorite solos from the music's past and present," Jazz Times, November 2, 2017.
‣ "Perfect Jazz Recordings," Richard Brody, The New Yorker, September 23, 2014.
‣ Also see the Jazz Discography Project.
- "Ornette Coleman and the Circle with a Hole in the Middle," Robert Palmer, The Atlantic Monthly, December, 1972, 6th paragraph.
- "Ornette's Permanent Revolution: A jazzman breaks all the boundaries, Francis Davis, The Atlantic, September, 1985, fourth paragraph.
- Fifth paragraph, first sentence from the Francis Davis article below.
“Jazz musicians have always respected instrumentalists whose inflections echo the natural cadences of speech, and they have always sworn by the blues (although as jazz has increased in sophistication, "the blues" has come to signify a feeling or a tonal coloring, in addition to a specific form). Coleman's blues authenticity—the legacy of the juke joints in his native Fort Worth, Texas, where he had played as a teenager—should have scored him points instantly. Instead, his ragged, down-home sound seems to have cast him in the role of country cousin to slicker, more urbanized musicians—as embarrassing a reminder of the past to them as a Yiddish speaking relative might have been to a newly assimilated Jew. In 1959 the "old country" for most black musicians was the American South, and few of them wanted any part of it.” ("Ornette's Permanent Revolution: A jazzman breaks all the boundaries, Francis Davis, The Atlantic, September, 1985, fifth paragraph)
- "Ornette Coleman and the Circle with a Hole in the Middle,"Robert Palmer, The Atlantic Monthly, 6th paragraph, December, 1972.
- "Why Does Jazz Matter to Aesthetic Theory," Robert Kraut, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 63, No. 1 (Winter, 2005), 7.
- Encyclopedia.com: Ornette Coleman, "Was an Outsider in the World of Jazz," seventh paragraph.
- Writer Bill Milkowski, in "Ornette Coleman: Skies of America," published September 1, 2000, describes Coleman's "Skies of America."
“Coleman’s third symphonic work, the 167-page epic score "Skies of America," is to “Turnaround” or “Ramblin'” what Zappa’s Orchestral Works is to “Valley Girl” or “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow.” Both symphonic pieces are imposing works that present quite a challenge to listeners and die-hard fans alike. There are more rewards for Ornette devotees on "Skies of America," namely the inclusion of his instantly recognizable alto-sax voice. Recorded in September 1972 with the London Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of David Meacham, the densely textured, cinematic "Skies" is comprised of 21 distinct movements that run the gamut of emotions from giddy to poignant to turbulent. From the polytonal, polyrhythmic opener, “Skies of America,” to the gorgeous, Ivesian closer, “Sunday in America,” this rich symphonic work stands as Coleman’s harmolodic manifesto.”
- Progarchives.com, "Ornette Coleman & Prime Time biography," second paragraph.
- Jazz Theory and Practice: For Performers, Arrangers and Composers , Jeffrey Hellmer and Richard Lawn, Alfred Music, May 3, 2005, p. 234. ISBN 978-1-4574-1068-0.
- "It Isn't Easy Being a Genius," Jim Collins, NYTimes, September 19, 2005.
- JazzShelf.com's Reviews many of Ornette Coleman's albums.