Jazz star Ornette Coleman dies at 85

Ornette Coleman, influential jazz musician, dies at 85

Ornette Coleman performs at the 40th Montreux Jazz festival in Switzerland - 2 July 2006
Ornette Coleman was born and raised in Texas but made his name in New York

Ornette Coleman, one of the most innovative musicians in modern jazz, has died at the age of 85 in New York.

A saxophonist born in Texas, Coleman began his career in the 1950s and later pioneered an unconventional style described as “free jazz”.

His 1959 album The Shape of Jazz to Come is regarded by many as one of the most influential jazz records.

His publicist, Ken Weinstein, said the musician died on Thursday morning after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Coleman, along with fellow saxophonist John Coltrane, was credited with breaking down the traditional structures of jazz and creating a more free-flowing form of expression.

Critics branded his idea of improvising without chord changes as chaotic but it eventually became mainstream in both jazz and rock.

His influence was recognised later in his life and he received both a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2007.

Ornette Coleman’s key recordings

BBC Radio 3: Ornette Coleman profile

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, on 9 March 1930, he once said he grew up “so po” his family couldn’t afford the “o” or the “r”.

He bought a cheap alto saxophone at 14 and played in local rhythm and blues bands before moving to Los Angeles.

Contemporary Records bought some of his compositions in 1958 but found studio musicians unable to play them so hired Coleman instead and they were released as his first album.

A year later, he moved to New York and was signed by Atlantic Records, who released The Shape of Jazz to Come in 1959. Rolling Stone magazine ranked the album at number 248 on its list of the 500 greatest albums.

Coleman married poet Jayne Cortez in 1954 but they divorced 10 years later.

He is survived by their son, Denardo, a drummer and producer who began performing with his father at age 10.

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BBC News – Entertainment & Arts

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