Ornette Coleman Photography

Ornette Coleman

Musician and composer Ornette Coleman is one of the most influential figures in the history of jazz—as well as one of its most controversial. The release in 1960 of Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation not only helped to establish that subgenre, but it served notice to the music world that Coleman was a fearless innovator, unafraid to turn the conventions of jazz inside out.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Coleman continued to follow his muse. Primarily an alto and tenor saxophonist, he branched out to playing trumpet and violin. Two albums Coleman released in the early ’70s, Science Fiction and Skies of America, remain landmark recordings and are considered to be fresh expressions of the avant-garde spirit that informed much of his work.

Coleman continued playing and recording until his death in 2015 at the age of 85. That he won both a Pulitzer Prize for music and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 alone bears witness to a productive and storied career.

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