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Ornette Coleman and
The Art of the Solo
Ornette Coleman gives a unique solo performance on alto sax and piano at Berliner Jazztage 1972.
Ornette Coleman was born on March 9, 1930 in Fort Worth, Texas and taught himself the tenor saxophone by the age of fourteen. Coleman found the poverty and racism surrounding him to be too much too bear and hit the road at age nineteen. Coleman first traveled around with Silas Green from New Orleans variety show and with rhythm and blues bands. After being assaulted after a show his saxophone was destroyed and he switched to alto and headed west to Los Angeles with Pee Wee Crayton's band. In Los Angeles Ornette began pursued his own musical visions much more so and became quickly controversial and had difficulties finding places to play. He was however able to find a core group of musicians to play with that included Don Cherry, Bobby Bradford, Ed Blackwell, Billy Higgins and Charlie Haden.
Coleman made Jazz history in 1958 with his album 'Something Else' with Don Cherry, Higgins, Don Payne and Walter Norris. Ornette's playing was not from the mainstream perspective of harmony, rhythm and melody and approached music with total freedom. All of the musical ideas incorporated in Coleman's music were not new per say because they did all exist in different cultures around the world but these ideas were newer to Western/European music and certainly Jazz in America at that time and Coleman called the concept Harmolodics. Through the 1960s Coleman recorded over fifteen albums on Atlantic and Blue Note and most are classics including 'Tomorrow Is the Question!', 'The Shape of Jazz to Come', 'Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation' and many more.
In the 1970s Ornette traveled the world including Morocco and Nigeria and sought out local musicians in these places to play with and tried to soak up as much of their music as possible. Coleman took the differences in melodic and rhythmic approach from these musicians and constructed a new band called Prime Time after with two guitars, two bass players and two drummers in order to capture and incorporate these new sounds. Ornette continued working through these new concepts into the 1980s and recorded popular albums 'Song X' with Pat Methany and 'Virgin Beauty' with Jerry Garcia. In the '90s Coleman created Architecture in Motion, which is a ballet based on his Harmolodic concept and worked on soundtracks for films including Naked Lunch and Philadelphia. He also released three albums in the decade; 'Tone Dialing', 'Sound Museum' and 'Colors'.
Ornette Coleman continues to perform to this day though not too often and any chance to see him must be taken advantage of. Coleman has received many awards including a honorary doctorate from New School University, MacArthur Fellowship award, a Pulitzer Prize for his album 'Sound Grammar' and inducted into the NEJHF Hall of Fame.
"All the things that human beings suffer from are how their environment treats them, and how the elements of their planet affects their mind and body - like radiation, cancer, and all."
"I'm having this conversation with you now. I'm talking, but I'm thinking, feeling, smelling, and moving. Yet I'm concentrating on what you're saying. So that means there's more things going on in the body than just the present thing that the person's got you doing."
"It was when I found out I could make mistakes that I knew I was on to something."
"To me, human existence exists on a multiple level, not just on a two-dimensional level, not just having to be identified with what you do and what you say."
"You don't have to worry about being a number one, number two, or number three. Numbers don't have anything to do with placement. Numbers only have something to do with repetition." - Ornette Coleman
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