Biography Ornette Coleman was born in Fort Worth, Texas, U.S. on March 9, 1930. Coleman’s Father died when he was only seven, and up until he graduated high school he lived with his hard working seamstress Mother. Throughout Coleman’s life things did not come easily as a black boy living in the South. He suffered through poverty and racism, but that however did not stop Coleman in pursing his dream as a musician.
Coleman Discovering the Art of Music Coleman’s musical interest came from his mother. He got his first Alto Sax at the age of fourteen from all the money he had saved as a kid. "I thought it was a toy and I just played it. Didn't know you have to learn something to find out what the toy does“- Coleman(www.guardian.co.uk). He mostly taught himself how to sight-read from a How-to Piano book, and how to play from experimenting with the tones of the plastic sax. As a boy Coleman had opportunities to play for local R&B bands, but frequently got fired for not playing the written cords and keys. Growing up in the 1930’s and 40’s Jazz surrounded him and Coleman quickly incorporated it into his musical style. Throughout the course of his life he has only had two music teachers.
Charlie Parker was one of the main influences in Coleman’s career. Coleman once claimed, “I could play and sound like Charlie Parker note-for-note, but I was only playing it from method. So I tried to figure out where to go from there” (www.allaboutjazz.com). Charlie Parker’s music gave Coleman the confidence to leave his hometown at age nineteen and move toL.A. where he became a working man and a jazz musician. Main Influences
A New Sound At first, Coleman had a hard time finding music jigs and was rejected for his unorthodox harmony. Interestingly enough what really stopped Coleman from playing his instrument to society was because in the early 1950’s improvisation had been based on fixed harmonic patters. Coleman was trying to change this through the music he expressed. Society oppressed his style not because he was a black musician, but because it was different. His dissimilar music was surprising and unwanted initially, however quite rapidly improvisations in jazz music was a way a musician could show and express feelings through the notes of music. Ornette Coleman did just this, and set a new example to music and the American society.
The unique style Coleman played gave him a outstanding opportunity to convey his knowledge about music. After a few years of practice he developed a new concept to music, the “Harmolodic theory”. Getting Recognized
Coleman’s Harmolodic Theory "The Harmolodic Theory" was created by Coleman on the belief that there are no mutually exclusive ways of making music. The theory allows musicians to freely express their emotions and themselves through music. The Harmolodic theory specifically involves using melody, rhythm, and harmony equally. This theory has great importance to Coleman’s career as he advocated the movement of “free jazz”.
Significant events in Coleman’s career The first chance Coleman got to record music was in 1950 by Contemporary records because they thought his tones' were catchy. This was only the start to his booming career. After Coleman got this recording shot, doors in the path of his journey as a “black” jazz musician were slowing opening. The note variety he contested to play opened his eyes and the eyes of others across the jazz nation.
Coleman formed a group with a trumpeter Don Cherry, drummer Billy Higgins, and bassist Charlie Haden. Together they worked collectively to form undiscerning free improvisations. In 1958-59 Coleman and his group recorded many albums, there first was called, SomethingElse (1958). Making the Band
Coleman and his quartet group moved to New York later that year in 1959. He was offered a gig at the Five Spot in New York, where he made about $100 a week playing his music. Moving on Up
Coleman’s artistic musical impact was termed “Free Jazz”. Coleman split the jazz world in two. He was accused of promptly breaking the rules of jazz and established arrangements or compositions for individual improvisation.
The Shape of Jazz to Come (1959) and Change of the Century in (1960). These were albums that started great controversy in the music business. Coleman and his Quartet had incredible room to improvise and interact musical chords. Lonely Women, and Congeniality were two songs recorded off the album, “The Shape of Jazz to Come”. Ramblin’, is one of my favorite songs that Coleman and his Quartet group recorded on the album Change of the Century. Coleman Creates Controversy
Listen to Ramblin’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqwdRBWvPs0 Listen to Lonely Women http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNbD1JIH344
Free Jazz (1960) was a piece Coleman composed that successfully proved influential tempos and flow to the approach of “free jazz”. This song set a new direction because not only one quartet was needed to play the compositions, but two, one for each stereo channel. Ornette “Free Jazz” Coleman
Free Jazz 1960 recording Featuring: Ornette Coleman Double Quartet http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrzOzgYL1-o&feature=related This YouTube recording only shows part of the whole song. The complete piece is about 40 minuets long.
In 1962 after recoding for several years Coleman temporarily took a step back from Jazz. He perceived a salary dispute and was not making money like other big Jazz names. Coleman, in his spare time teaches himself how to play the violin and trumpet, expanding his scope of musical compositions.
Coleman finds himself on strike from performing in public. He takes a break from music for a couple of years in search for something more.
Coleman returns to performing music in 1965, now with a profile of composing pieces including string quartets, woodwind quintets and symphonic works. This broadens his horizons and he writes, Skies of America (1972) with a great interest for large ensembles. Coleman’s Come Back
Skies of America 1972 This YouTube shows the great combinations Coleman was able to put together with his free and wild jazz style with all the instruments in a concert ensemble. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRylMZYTg30&playnext=1&list=PL784C5FBA668FE118
Coleman still tries to seek out more abstract and mechanical compositional techniques. In 1973 he takes a journey to Morocco. This trip has yet another impressive significance to his musical career.
While in Morocco, Coleman studied in the Rif Mountains with a master musician Jajouka. Upon his return to music, a rhythmic influence was gained and a new direction of certain popular, funk, and fusion styles revitalized his ensemble performances.
What time is it? Prime Time.. Coleman formed a band called, Prime Time. The style of music he played with this band lead to advancing and assimilating Jazz-Rock. The band usually consisted of two guitars, two basses and two drummers, as well as Ornette playing(alto saxophone, trumpet, and violin). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FztwFEk2nMk : Listen to Prime Time
His band Prime Time remained his primary performance vehicle until the 1990s. They created numerous songs that consisted of harmonically free collective improvisations.
Coleman is a man of Jazz. He has done countless memorable things to improve and influence players of other instruments. Music was his primary study and because of this he has made a tremendous effort in his life making music great.
Achievements Coleman has achieved a great status in Music. He has been recognized as an American saxophonist, composer, and bandleader. He was a main influence to “Free Jazz” In 1994, Coleman was granted with the MacArthur Genius Award, and inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2007, Coleman was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for music at the age of 77 years old and still lives on today. Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger (left) presents Ornette Coleman with the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Music.
“Jazz is the only music in which the same note can be played night after night but differently each time” – Ornette Coleman (www.brainyquote.com). I feel this quote shows great importance to what Coleman was all about. He was a man of improvisation, he flowed and felt the rhythm of music and was easily shown through all of his compositions.
Works Cited “Ornette Coleman.” All About Jazz. 14 July 2011. http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/musician.php?id=5818 “Ornette Coleman.” All that Jazz history: ornettecoleman. 15 July 2011. http://library.thinkquest.org/18602/history/new/ocoleman/colemanstart.html “Ornette Coleman.” 2011. Biography.com. 23 Jun 2011, 12:16 http://www.biography.com/articles.Ornette-Coleman-9253139 “Ornette Coleman.” BrainyQuote.com. 17 July 2011. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/o/ornette_coleman_2.html “Ornette Coleman.” Coleman's harmolodic theory: byRobert Palmer. 15 July 2011. http://people.virginia.edu/~skd9r/MUSI212_new/diagrams/Palmer_on_Ornette.html “Ornette Coleman.” Harmolodic, Inc.com. 17 July 2011. http://www.ejn.it/mus/coleman.htm “Ornette Coleman.” NPR music reviews. 17 July 2011. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9607210 “Ornette Coleman.” Oxford University Press. 14 July 2011. www.pbs.org/jazz/biography/artist_id_Coleman_Ornette.htm “Ornette Coleman” www.guardian.co.uk.Culture Music Blog. 17 July 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2010/jul/23/ornette-coleman-shape-jazz