Ornette Coleman

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Ornette Coleman

Randolph Denard Ornette Coleman (March 19, 1930 - June 11, 2015) was an American jazz saxophonist and composer.


  • I mostly like things that have causes more than effects, and this seemed to be a tune that is mostly effects. I don't get the cause clearly.
  • I mostly like things that have causes more than effects, and this seemed to be a tune that is mostly effects. I don't get the cause clearly.
  • Let's play the music and not the background!
    • As quoted in "Building New Jazz; Rhythm Mode" by Hollie I. West, in The Washington Post (February 14, 1971), p. N9.
  • I wasn't so interested in being paid. I wanted to be heard. That's why I'm broke.
    • Esquire, January 2010, p. 90
  • The only thing my mother would say about my music—I'd say, "Mom, listen to this," and she'd say, "Junior, I know who you are."
    • Esquire, January 2010, p. 90


  • When people like Gunther Schuller and John Lewis, whose musicianship I respect, back and support this so openly and fervently, I don't know what to think. I just can't figure it out. From the very first note it's miserably out of tune. [...] I should like to revise one rating. After hearing "Embraceable You" by the Ornette Coleman group, I'd like to raise the rating on Phil Woods' "Midnight Sun Never Sets" to 12!
  • When asked to play a 12-bar blues, Ornette Coleman fingered his plastic saxophone and played nothing...he's felt more nothing than you or I know.
  • I like Ornette's approach to writing. I wish I could see more of a link between the writing and the solos. It's like a building without any foundation and something's got to keep it up in the air. Even an atom-powered submarine has to go back to home base sometimes ... You've got to know where home is. You've got to acknowledge that somewhere.
  • In my estimation a very important date, along with some of Ornette's earlier dates. It was very important insofar as the direction of the music; jazz, specifically the avant-garde ... Ornette inspired me to move from the canal-like narrow-mindedness of the '40s through the later '50s, to the later Grand Canyon-like harmonic awareness of the '60s ... I think he might have had some bearing on Newk Rollins and the impeccable John Coltrane.
  • Whichever alto player it was, I wish he would play in tune. He's got good ideas, but it would help to get them across a little more, you know, if ... unless that's considered to be a little bit more freedom—if you can take liberties with the intonation like that. if that's liberty, boy, they're making an ass out of Abraham Lincoln! I think it would be a good idea for everybody to just leave Ornette alone for about five years and let him get himself together rather than subject him to all the controversail ends of it ... he's searching and he should at least have the liberty to do it in peace.
  • There's two driving forces for every jazz player—the playing and the writing ... Ornette's writing was a little bit ahead of his playing when this record was made. He has a wonderful sense of humor, and the compositions are very interesting. But I don't think he plays his compositions as well as he wrote them.
  • I'm in favor of Ornette and many of the things he has done ... he does possess the basic elements that go to make up a jazz artist ... a rhythmic drive ... qualities you can find in everybody since Louis Armstrong—all the good guys ... I can still see in his figures a certain quality that was exemplified by Bird. Everybody says Ornette's playing sounds weird or so forth. But the basic jazz essentials, as I said ... Ornette has—the drive and the rhythm. Rhythm is the most necessary part, the prerequisite for the jazz musician—the positive element. But, of course, harmony is the negative through which the positive must exert itself.
  • His musical inspiration operates in a world uncluttered by conventional bar lines, conventional chord changes, and conventional ways of blowing or fingering a saxophone. Such practical 'limitations' did not even have to be overcome in his music; they somehow never existed for him. Despite this--or more accurately, because of this--his playing has a deep inner logic. Not an obvious surface logic, it is based on subtleties of reaction, subtleties of timing and color that are, I think, quite new to jazz--at least they have never appeared in so pure and direct a form.

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