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Ornette Coleman

About this Artist

ORNETTE COLEMAN was born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1930. Coleman's father died when Ornette was seven. His seamstress mother bought Coleman his first saxophone when he was 14 years old. Self-taught, Coleman absorbed the instrument and began playing with local rhythm and blues bands. He took to the road at age 19 and landed in Los Angeles, where he found a core of musicians who took to his musical concepts: trumpeters Don Cherry and Bobby Bradford, drummers Ed Blackwell and Billy Higgins, and bassist Charlie Haden. He also began writing string quartets, woodwind quintets, and symphonies based on his Harmolodic theory. In the decades since, Coleman has released numerous trend-setting albums, including Tone Dialing, Sound Museum, Body Meta, Song X with guitarist Pat Metheny, and Virgin Beauty featuring the late Jerry Garcia. In 1997 New York's Lincoln Center Festival featured his symphonic work, Skies of America, with the New York Philharmonic and Kurt Masur. Coleman has received honorary degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, Cal Arts, and Boston Conservatory and an honorary doctorate from the New School for Social Research. In 1994 he received a MacArthur Fellowship, and in 1997 he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2001 Coleman received the Praemium Imperiale award from the Japanese government.