Ornette Coleman (1930– )

Born:

19th March 1930 in Fort Worth, Texas, USA.

Ornette Coleman in 2008

Some well-known pieces:
  • Tears Inside.
  • Ramblin’.
  • Una Muy Bonita (A Very Pretty One).
Some great albums:
  • Something Else! (1958).
  • Tomorrow is the Question (1959).
  • The Shape of Jazz to Come (1959).
  • Change of the Century (1959).
  • This is Our Music (1960).
  • Free Jazz (1960).
  • At the Golden Circle, Stockholhm: Volumes 1 & 2 (1965).
  • Colors (1996).
  • Sound Grammar (2005).
Some interesting facts:
  • He more or less invented ‘free jazz’. [Free jazz sounds ‘free’—it sounds much more made up as the players go along than other types of jazz.]
  • His albums of 1958–1960 took the jazz world by storm! This was the new free jazz. And it was completely different from any other jazz before it.
  • The albums of 1958–1960 were also a big shock because nobody had really heard of him before they came out.
  • He causes lots of arguments! Some people think his free jazz is the work of a genius. Other people think it’s a load of rubbish!
  • He invented a whole new way of composing that he called ‘harmolodics’.
  • He mainly plays the saxophone, but can also play the trumpet and violin.
  • He mainly taught himself to play the saxophone.
  • At one time the saxophone he played was made of plastic!
  • There have been many times when Ornette Coleman has gone quiet. The first of these was from 1963–1965.
  • He continues to perform regularly.
  • In 1965 he recorded an album with his 10 year old son as the drummer. This caused lots of arguments. But Ornette Coleman’s son has been the main drummer for his father since the 1970s.
  • He has tried composing classical music as well as jazz, but this has never been successful.
Official Website

Here is a video of Ornette Coleman in a sextet (a group of six musicians playing together). Ornette Coleman is the man in blue playing the saxophone.

Ornette Coleman performing in a sextet

And here is a video of Ornette Coleman playing with a different group.

Ornette Coleman in 1988

Picture credits:
  1. Ornette Coleman. This photograph was taken on 10th July 1994 by Geert Vandepoele. The image is free to use providing one credits the photographer. Click here for the source of this image, along with the relevant copyright information.
  2. Ornette Coleman in 2008. This photograph was taken on 3rd October 2008 at the Enjoy Jazz Festival 2008, Heidelberg, Germany. It was taken by Frank Schindelbeck (www.schindelbeck.org). The image is free to use providing one credits the photographer. Click here for the source of this image, along with the relevant copyright information.
Video credits:
  1. Ornette Coleman Sextet – Free Jazz (1of 3). 1978 Germany. Ornette Coleman – sax, violin; Ben Nix – guitar; Charlie Ellerbee – guitar; Albert Arnold – bass; Shannon Jackson – drums; Denardo Coleman – drums.
  2. Ornette Coleman and Prime Time 1988. “Latin Genetics” Live 1988 Montreal Jazz Festival.

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