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Ornette Coleman (1930- )

Ornette Coleman (born March 9, 1930) is an American saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter and composer. He was one of the major innovators of the free jazz movement of the 1950s and 160s.

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.

from 'As Serious as Yout Life - the story of the new jazz' by Valerie Wilmer, 1977:

. . . the Ornette Coleman of 1949 was a different proposition . . . Crayton [Pee Wee Crayton, guitarist] remembers him as a 'dark, brownskin boy, with hair long, play alto' who didn't eat meat'.

From The Independent on Sunday, Sept 5, 2006,

Obituary of Dewey Redman, tenor saxophonist, musette player, and bandleader: born Fort Worth, Texas 17 May 1931; married Lidija Pedevska (two sons); died New York 2 September 2006.

"Ornette Coleman's always been a guiding light for me. All the stuff he's been through and he still hasn't received the recognition that he deserves, even though he has about a half-dozen honorary doctoral degrees. He still is not recognised. He's one of America's greatest artists ever. I've had people help me throughout the years, but he's the main one. He was also the first vegetarian I knew."

from the Sydney Morning Herald, March 23, 2007:

AT 77, the saxophonist, trumpeter, violinist, composer, musical theorist and jazz revolutionary Ornette Coleman has been awarded a rare accolade, the Pulitzer Prize for music. It was given for his latest recording, Sound Grammar.

. . . He was born in 1930 in Fort Worth, Texas. "There were so many different kinds of music there: Irish, country and western, blues, sacred."

Coleman absorbed all these, but concluded they were all just music: "It was being played by the same people with the same notes." But Coleman - young, black, vegetarian, long-haired, religious, and already sounding strange - had a hard time. In blues bands he was continually told he was playing things wrongly. At a dance in Louisiana he was beaten up, and his saxophone smashed. He moved to laid-back Los Angeles, where the hippest of musicians were often unwilling to play with him.

from the New Zealand Listener, Jan 26, 2008:

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1930, Coleman began his career playing with local groups before touring the South with tent shows, minstrel troupes and blues bands. From those earliest performances, his unusual and individual style wasn’t always welcomed, and one band leader even paid him not to play. Eventually, he settled in Los Angeles, but even there he was ostracised by local musicians for his unorthodox playing and singular personality.

At that time, Coleman was vegetarian, interested in religious sects and – extraordinarily for the mid-50s – had long hair and a beard. Trumpeter Don Cherry recalled that the first time he met him, “It was about 90 degrees and he had on an overcoat. I was scared of him.”

 


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