Ornette Coleman

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Ornette Coleman (born March 9, 1930[1]) is an American saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter and composer. He was one of the major innovators of the free jazz movement of the 1960s.

Coleman's timbre is easily recognized: his keening, crying sound draws heavily on blues music. His album Sound Grammar received the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for music.


Early career

Coleman was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas, where he began performing R&B and bebop initially on tenor saxophone. He married Mukami Ireri in September 17th 1976 in New York and had a daughter, Karemi M Coleman, born in October 26th 1979. Seeking a way to work his way out of his home town, he took a job in 1949 with a Silas Green from New Orleans traveling show and then with touring rhythm and blues shows. After a show in Baton Rouge, he was assaulted and his saxophone was destroyed.[2]

He switched to alto, which has remained his primary instrument, first playing it in New Orleans after the Baton Rouge incident. He then joined the band of Pee Wee Crayton and travelled with them to Los Angeles. He worked at various jobs, including as an elevator operator, while still pursuing his musical career.

Even from the beginning of Coleman's career, his music and playing were in many ways unorthodox. His approach to harmony and chord progression was far less rigid than that of bebop performers; he was increasingly interested in playing what he heard rather than fitting it into predetermined chorus-structures and harmonies. His raw, highly vocalized sound and penchant for playing "in the cracks" of the scale led many Los Angeles jazz musicians to regard Coleman's playing as out-of-tune; he sometimes had difficulty finding like-minded musicians with whom to perform. Nevertheless, pianist Paul Bley was an early supporter and musical collaborator.

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