Ornette Coleman Compositions

English: Ornette Coleman, moers festival 2011

Source: burning ambulance.

Ornette Coleman is obviously best known as a jazz musician. His 1959-61 quartet broke jazz wide open on albums like The Shape of Jazz to Come, This is Our Music, and Change of the Century, and he gave an entire genre a name with Free Jazz. Later albums like The Empty Foxhole, Broken Shadows, Science Fiction, Crisis and Ornette at 12 weren’t as transformative as his previous work—the boundaries of his style had been established, and he was now tweaking the details rather than upending things entirely—but they were every bit as emotionally potent and beautiful. His turn toward electric funk, which began in the mid ’70s and continued for 20 years, alienated almost as many of his fans as his first acoustic recordings had repelled jazz traditionalists, but there were still clearly audible connections to what had come before. His voice on the horn was still uniquely and unmistakably his own, no matter what kind of clatter and squall surrounded it.

But there’s another side of Ornette Coleman‘s music that has often gone overlooked. As early as 1962, and probably much earlier, he was composing for chamber ensembles and orchestras. And while there are relatively few recorded examples of this work, those that do exist are startling, and well worth exploring for what they reveal about his musical personality.