June 11th, 2015 by


Today the world got a little less incredible. Alto saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter and composer Ornette Coleman died at the age of 85 at his home in Manhattan earlier this morning. Growing up in the slums of Fort Worth, TX he fought hard and struggled his entire career to being understood and accepted. His drive and dedication came at a very early age as he stepped on stage in several RnB outfits in the late 40s as an out-of-place rail thin long haired vegetarian who everyone probably assumed was tone deaf. From frequently being booed off stage, physically beat up (his only saxophone was completely destroyed in New Orleans during one of his first touring gigs), to pissing off all the Down Beat snobs when he took the Five Spot by storm in the early 50s with his plastic Grafton, he was constantly pushing what others deemed as possible with jazz and bop. In the face of blind and rabid bigotry, racist epithets from his early audience, patronizing from his peers and constant misunderstanding and ridicule from the world Ornette strode on playing exactly as he wanted to and never once fell short of his personal integrity. Through his musical pursuits he made humbling efforts to encourage and train those young who were just starting out in music, from recording with his 10 year old son as drummer on The Empty Foxhole to creating an ‘open to all studio’ in Harlem where he was sadly robbed, attacked and left for dead in the late 70s. He gave everything for his music. In a word: he was the quintessential American Artist and there will never be anyone quite like him. So long Ornette and thanks for the inspiration, love and beauty you brought and left to this world.

If you have 15 minutes today and have never heard any of Ornette’s music, please take a moment and listen:

Lonely Woman, 1959:

R.P.D.D. (Relation of the Poet to Day Dreaming), 1962:

Street Woman, 1972:

Times Square on SNL (w/Prime Time), 1979 (Thanks Tom!):

Only Once, 2006: