Ornette Coleman dies aged 85 - Articles - Soundblab

Ornette Coleman dies aged 85

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

Free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman has died of cardiac arrest aged 85, the New York Times reports. His family said he died in his home of Manhattan.

The saxophonist and composer came to prominence with 1959’s The Shape of Jazz to Come, which broke with the then popular bebop style and signalled a move towards free jazz, a sound Coleman explored on seminal albums such as 1961's Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation.

In a 2007 interview with the Guardian, Coleman explained his revolutionary approach to jazz: “I was trying to play ideas, changes, movements and non-transposed notes.”

Influenced by his friend and fellow jazz innovator, Albert Ayler, Coleman famously played a plastic sax on his early recordings. This was apt, as he learnt to play his first sax, bought with money earned from shining shoes, as if it was a toy, exploring sounds regardless of their musicality.

His groundbreaking early works featured firebrand trumpeter Don Cherry, while Coleman would go on to collaborate with Lou Reed (The Raven), guitarist Pat Metheny, and Yoko Ono (Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band), as well as playing on the soundtrack for David Cronenberg's film adaptation of William S Burroughs’ Naked Lunch.

He also enjoyed a fruitful creative partnership with Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead, appearing on stage twice with the band in 1993.

In 2007, he received the Pulitzer Prize for music for his album Sound Grammar as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. 

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