Ornette Coleman dies aged 85

The alto saxophonist and composer died in Manhattan

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Ornette Coleman has died aged 85.

He suffered a cardiac arrest at home in Manhattan, according to The New York Times.

One of the major innovators of the free jazz movement, Coleman’s debut album,  Something Else!!!!, was recorded with trumpeter Don Cherry, drummer Billy Higgins, bassist Don Payne and pianist Walter Norris.


A year later, he recorded his breakthrough album, The Shape Of Jazz To Come.


Coleman’s work outside jazz led to several interesting collaborations. He played twice with the Grateful Dead while Jerry Garcia played guitar on Coleman’s 1988 album, Virgin Beauty. Coleman additionally collaborated with Pat Metheny.


Coleman also appeared on Lou Reed‘s 2003 album, The Raven. Reed said, “I had Ornette Coleman play on my song ‘Guilty‘. He did seven versions – all different and all amazing and wondrous.” Four of those versions are available to stream on Reed’s website.


Coleman won the Pulitzer Prize for music for his 2007 album Sound Grammar; that same year he received a Grammy lifetime achievement award.

In 1983, Coleman’s hometown of Fort Worth, Texas declared September 29th  as “Ornette Coleman Day”.

His last album, 2014’s New Vocabulary, was another collaboration, this time with young NYC musicians, Jordan McLean (trumpet), Amir Ziv (drums), and Adam Holzman (piano).


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