ORNETTE COLEMAN, one of the founding fathers of the Free Jazz movement, has died from a cardiac arrest at the age of 85.
Ornette Coleman was born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1930, and owned his first saxophone at age 14. Initially playing R&B music, he moved to New Orleans where he began formulating a new musical language that dispensed with orthodox notions of melody, harmony and structure. A move to Los Angeles in the late ’50s led to Coleman being signed by Contemporary Records, who issued his first album, Something Else!!!!, in 1958.
It was at Atlantic Records in 1959, though, where Coleman really made his mark. He released what became a manifesto for free jazz called ‘The Shape Of Jazz To Come,’ which was the first of six groundbreaking albums released for the label between 1959 and 1961. They changed the course of jazz and gave birth to a new avant-garde movement whose adherents were devotees of the ‘New Thing.’ Though it was divisive, Coleman’s new music was profoundly influential and exerted a huge effect on the music of Eric Dolphy, Albert Ayler and John Coltrane.
After his stint at Atlantic, Coleman recorded for a variety of labels – including Blue Note, Impulse! and Columbia – and continued to fly the flag for free jazz. The saxophonist – who also played trumpet and violin – earned a Pulitzer Prize for his 2006 album, ‘Sound Grammar,’ and last year, at the age of 84, released what would become his final album, ‘New Vocabulary,’ on System Dialling Records.