Ornette Coleman, the hearalded jazz saxophonist and composer who is credited for helping the genre elavate beyond its standard-rooted sonic origins in the ’50s and ’60s, died of cardiac arrest in Manhattan at the age of 85 this morning.
The New York Times broke the news of his death in a profile that discussed his contributions to jazz’s evolution at length, saying the following:
Mr. Coleman widened the options in jazz and helped change its course. Partly through his example in the late 1950s and early ’60s, jazz became less beholden to the rules of harmony and rhythm, and gained more distance from the American songbook repertoire. His own music, then and later, became a new form of highly informed folk song: deceptively simple melodies for small groups with an intuitive, collective language, and a strategy for playing without preconceived chord sequences.
Colman’s innovation led him to play alongside string quartets, musicians from the Moroccan Rif Mountains, the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, and many others. His prolific career saw his music intersect with what we now call post-punk, free-jazz and noise genres.