P.O. Box 1189, Triboro Station, New York, NY 10035 USA
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Born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1930, Ornette Coleman bought his first saxophone at age 14 with his own money. Self-taught, he was soon earning a living playing in local rhythm and blues bands. At 19, he left home to tour with a traveling minstrel show. Additional gigs brought him to Los Angeles.

Self-taught did not mean "isolated." A gifted imitator, he quickly learned all the latest riffs and tunes and was particularly taken by Be-bop's revolutionary innovation of improvising on chord changes. Coleman soon moved beyond the constrictions of this invention, but as he began to play the new possibilities he felt and heard, others shunned him and his music.

Undaunted, he continued to teach himself, studying composition between floors while working as an elevator operator. Ornette took on younger musicians who "wood-shedded" with him while waiting for others to hear what they could play.

Recognition finally came, though not without controversy, in the late fifties, at the Five Spot in Greenwich Village and with such prophetically-titled albums as "Something Else", "Tomorrow is the Question", and "The Shape of Jazz To Come". Coleman made the "collective improvisations" of what came to be called "free jazz" the latest and, to many, the last in the long line of innovations stretching from King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington to Charlie Parker.

Yet Coleman was primarily concerned not in introducing a new "style" but in encouraging individual and collective expression through an expansion of musical possibilities. At the height of his popularity, he withdrew to teach himself violin and trumpet. Chamber works and symphonies followed that earned him praise from Gunther Schuller, Leonard Bernstein, and Virgil Thompson, as well as favorable comparisons to Charles Ives and John Cage.

Coleman continues on the cutting edge of jazz. He was named Downbeat and Rolling Stone Jazz Musician of the Year in 1987. Prime Time, his electrified ensemble created in the mid-1970s with his son Denardo on drums, has served as a progenitor for subsequent punk, funk, and fusion experiments. Its central intuition - that all musicians can "solo" at once and together - carried the Phil Spector "wall of sound" concept into the fourth dimension. And his recent work with his "New Quartet" brought the acoustic piano sound (of Geri Allen) back into his jazz performances for the first time since Paul Bley stayed behind on the West Coast when Coleman headed East to the Five Spot with Don Cherry, accompanied by Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins.

Ornette has also become a sought-after and innovative composer of considerable stature, commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Paris's Festival d'Automne, and Milan's La Scala, for whom he is preparing an opera.

His original approach to music, "Harmolodics" - which gives equal value to harmony, motion (or rhythm), and melody and allows any musician to make a contribution to the music on any of these levels at any time - has earned him recognition as a "genius" with the awarding of the 1994 MacArthur Prize. In the summer of 1997 he was crowned with laurels at two separate festivals honoring his lifelong work: La Villette Jazz Festival in Paris and the Lincoln Center Festival in New York City, where the New York Philharmonic performed his Skies of America symphony.

Following an acclaimed performance of his chamber music at the Museum of Modern Art, Coleman opened the 2000 Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival in Battery Park with a full range of his jazz and classical compositions.