Ornette Coleman, 1930-2015


Jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman has died at the age of 85. Here is the Wall Street Journal’s coverage.

I don’t know what the guys are wearing in this photo, but for me it’s always been the epitome of ’50s-“Talented Mr. Ripley” suited-up blacks-and-whites making music together jazz cool. — CC

17 Comments on "Ornette Coleman, 1930-2015"

  1. Worried Man | June 11, 2015 at 1:59 pm |

    The first time I heard Ornette Coleman was years ago when a guitar player friend of mine gave me a copy of the 1959 album The Shape of Jazz to Come. He wanted us to learn “Lonely Woman”. I took the cd and listened to it and hated it. I absolutely hated it. I told him there was no way we’d be able to do a convincing cover version of the song, especially with him needing to transpose Ornette’s sax part to guitar. “It’s just not the type of song you cover,” I told him.

    Now, years later, I love that song and the entire album and I realize that my initial reaction was owing to complete fear and misunderstanding of what I was hearing. It bent my mind out of shape. Thanks, Ornette.

  2. Charlottesville | June 11, 2015 at 2:33 pm |

    Thanks, Christian. The great Charlie Hayden (far right in picture) also died just last year. Great bass player and leader of his own quartet. Ornette was a black man from Texas who played in his high school band. Charlie was a white man from Iowa who grew up performing on his family’s country music radio show. Another reminder that the Ivy style, or a version of it, transcended barriers of race and region in the heyday. I would argue that it still does, but unfortunately in much smaller numbers.

  3. Dutch Uncle | June 11, 2015 at 4:05 pm |

    Am I the only Ivy aficionado who finds jazz music unbearable?

  4. Worried Man | June 11, 2015 at 4:36 pm |

    Hahaha. Certainly not I’m sure, Dutch Uncle. Like I said, when I first heard Ornette I too thought it was practically unlistenable. And that’s coming from someone that liked other forms of jazz. It can be a challenging style of music to get into. Most of the people I know that really love and appreciate jazz also play it and so are also very caught up in the mechanics and the theory of it, and often like to dissect it.

    What music do you enjoy?

  5. Bags' Groove | June 11, 2015 at 6:05 pm |

    Loved his compositions more than his playing. He was a highly contentious figure when he came on the scene, many saying he wasn’t even playing jazz. But a lot of great jazz musicians respect him (and his compositions), so I must have been missing something. Sorry to be negative again, Charlottesville, but I never got the adulation bestowed upon Haden. He was a little too plodding for me, though I do love an album he made with Denny Zeitlin. And I enjoyed some of his Quartet West stuff.
    As for the black and white stuff, I’m pretty sure it’s something that never enters jazz musicians’ minds. You’ve either got the chops, or you ain’t, baby!

  6. Christian | June 11, 2015 at 6:49 pm |

    Well it entered the minds of the previous generation, such as Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, who broke ground by adding blacks to their bands.

    Ditto for the dancers during the swing era who were the first to brave mixing.

  7. Worried Man | June 11, 2015 at 7:04 pm |

    And Brubeck would flat out tell everyone to just put the gear back in the bus if some promoter said they weren’t allowed to play on account of Eugene Wright.

  8. Ward Wickers | June 11, 2015 at 7:51 pm |

    Hayden also did a nice album with Pat Metheny–Beyond the Missouri Sky. I like lot of jazz, but truthfully, had a hard time with Coleman’s style of jazz. Probably says more about my (lack of) aesthetics than anything else.

    I hadn’t thought about this before, but it seems like the arts broke the earliest ground with black performers. Writing would be early, too. Then sport. I guess the arts and sport appreciated the human more deeply than other disciplines.

  9. Christian | June 11, 2015 at 8:12 pm |

    Can dig him in small doses, but in general too noisy for me. But I love that photo. The different expressions (seems to have been a popular kind of jazz photo at the time) and the contrast between the avant-garde music and sober and respectable clothing is cool in a way that acid rock (or acid jazz for that matter) in tie-dye can never be.

  10. Ward Wickers | June 11, 2015 at 9:53 pm |

    Acid rock and tie-dye was a deliberate anti-establishment stance taken at the time. People were marching on Washington, protesting the Viet Nam war, taking over college buildings, having sit-ins, and getting shot by government troops (Kent State). Being sober and wearing respectable clothing wasn’t even close to being a norm for the “hippies” of the day.

  11. Someone once referred to the album cover as the coolest. Ever.


    Granted, it may be that others made the claim.

  12. Natural Fibers | June 12, 2015 at 2:49 am |

    Gentlemen look presentable, proper, even distinguished, not cool.

  13. Bags' Groove | June 12, 2015 at 2:51 am |

    Christian, those guys are too early for me, man, I’m strictly post-bebop.

  14. Bags' Groove | June 12, 2015 at 4:17 pm |

    Charlie was cool with the big pantheon-type specs he wore most of the time. Though Carla Bley’s hair never changed.

  15. Another glance at Ornette’s suit. Whether a worsted or a woolen (flannel) it reveals heathery shades of gray and blue. That wonderful melange Air Force Blue that’s strangely absent from the (modern day) well-dressed gent’s repertoire. I am inspired.

  16. I came to Ornette Coleman late, after also not being able to make much of it when it came out. Even though I was able at the time to respond what Coltrane was doing, which in some ways was just as wild. I think Coltrane was just more lyrical, even when he was breaking down melodies and putting them back together again.

    I finally got into Coleman when I heard his 2006 album, Sound Grammar, being reviewed on the radio, especially the very haunting “Sleep Talking.”

    I agree with S.E. about the air force blue. I think Sid Mashburn has some suits in that color.

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