Ornette Coleman

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Coleman, Ornette,

1930–2015, African-American saxophonist and composer, b. Fort Worth, Tex. Largely self-taught, he began playing the alto saxophone in rhythm-and-blues bands. He later developed an unorthodox and impassioned style of free jazzjazz,
the most significant form of musical expression of African-American culture and arguably the most outstanding contribution the United States has made to the art of music. Origins of Jazz

Jazz developed in the latter part of the 19th cent.
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 characterized by broken rhythms, atonal harmonies, and improvised melody, which made him an enduringly controversial figure in the jazz avant-garde. Coleman made his first real impact in the commercial jazz world after he moved from Los Angeles to New York City in 1959. From then on he played in a number of small groups with various musicians. Beginning in the 1960s, his work with electric bands led to his creation of a jazz-rock fusion he called "harmolodic," combining harmony, movement, and melody. In the mid-1970s he formed his own electric band, Prime Time. Coleman wrote several modernist concert pieces, notably the orchestral Skies of America (1972). In 2007 he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Grammy and that same year he won the Pulitzer Prize for his recording Sound Grammar (2006).


See biographies by B. McRae (1988), J. Litweiler (1992), and P. N. Wilson (1999); study by D. Lee (2006); S. Clarke, dir., Ornette: Made in America (documentary, 1986).

Coleman, Ornette

(1930–  ) jazz musician; born in Fort Worth, Texas. An iconoclastic saxophonist and composer, his experiments in free-form improvisation sharply divided the jazz establishment upon his emergence in 1959. Largely self-taught, he played in rhythm-and-blues bands before settling in Los Angeles in 1951, where he gradually formed a quartet of musicians who were receptive to his unorthodox ideas. He first recorded in 1958 and made his New York debut the following year. He made a series of important recordings in 1959–61 that shaped the direction of jazz for the next twenty years. A sporadic performing artist after the early 1960s, he occasionally led both a conventional jazz quartet and the rock band Prime Time, but turned increasingly to composition, producing several works for symphony orchestra in accordance with his "harmolodic theory."
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