R.I.P. Jazz Legend Ornette Coleman, Dead At 85

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The fact that Ornette Coleman, who died Thursday morning at 85 of cardiac arrest, had an album titled The Shape Of Jazz To Come says all you need to know about his legacy and impact on the genre.

Born on March 9, 1930 in Forth Worth, Texas, Coleman was an innovator in the jazz world, an alto saxophonist and composer who pushed boundaries and re-wrote rules musically. He endured skepticism and criticism for his unconventional ways, but over time became appreciated for crafting some of the best records in jazz’s rich history as public perception began to shift and view Coleman as an avant-garde genius rather than a threat to the establishment. He was credited with coining the term “free jazz,” and became a pivotal figure within that movement. But while his music often came off as unwieldy, Coleman had a brilliant mind for melody and theory. There was a method to his madness.

Coleman burst onto the scene in 1958 with Something Else!!!!: The Music of Ornette Coleman, and signed with Atlantic Records in 1959 to release The Shape Of Jazz To Come, a record that — on a personal note — sits proudly and prominently at the front of my crate. His 2005 album Sound Grammar won a Pulitzer Prize in 2007. In between the revolutionary Shape and the prized Sound Grammar came a catalogue that rivals Coleman’s more well-known peers, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker.

In addition to his Pulitzer, Coleman’s work earned him a Grammy lifetime achievement award, the prestigious Miles Davis Award from the Montreal Jazz Festival, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Michigan.

(Via New York Times)