NEW YORK (CelebrityAccess) — American jazz saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter and composer Ornette Coleman, who was one of the key innovators of the free jazz movement, died on Thursday morning in Manhattan. He was 85.
A representative of Coleman's family told the New York Times that Coleman died after a suffering a cardiac arrest.
While Coleman's early work lay at the border of the more traditional formulations of jazz, even contributing some standards such as "Una Muy Bonita" and "Lonely Woman" to the songbook, his later work would controversially push the boundaries of the form.
Born in Forth Worth Texas in 1930, Coleman performed first with rhythm-and-blues and society bands around Texas and then moving on play with a traveling minstrel show troupe Silas Green From New Orleans, and ended up in Natchez after being fired for trying to teach one of his bandmates how to play bebop.
In 1953, Coleman moved to Los Angeles to play with the R&B bandleader Pee Wee Crayton and eventually assembled a group of musicians that would help him to define his sound. It was with this group that Coleman would release his first album, “Something Else!!!! The Music of Ornette Coleman,” for the Contemporary Records label.
Other albums, including the seminal avant garde albums "The Shape of Jazz to Come" and "Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation" would follow in 1959 and 1960, respectively.
In the late 1960s, Coleman acquired a building in Manhattan, which he dubbed The Artist House, and started producing his own concerts and in the 1970s, he ventured into orchestral music, composing a concerto grosso called “Skies of America,” which he would record with the London Symphony Orchestra.
Coleman would remain productive through the later part of his career, releasing numerous albums through the 1980s and '90s, including "Virgin Beauty" which featured Jerry Garcia on some guitar parts and the soundtrack for David Cronenberg's film adaptation of the William Burroughs novel "Naked Lunch."
In 2004, Coleman was awarded the prestigious Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize and won a Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2007 for his live album from the preceding year "Sound Grammar." 2007 also saw Coleman awarded with a Grammy award for lifetime achievement.
Coleman's survivors include his son, who performed as a drummer with him on and off since the late 1960s, and a grandson. – Staff Writers