The Department Store Painting that Inspired Ornette Coleman and 5 Other Interesting Facts About His Life


Ornette Coleman

News | May, 9th 2018

When we think about what makes an artist great, there are certain assumed givens: sharp, irrefutable skill, unique yet universal perspective, the masterful ease that comes with practice. Ornette Coleman embodied these traits and so much more which is why the JLCO will pay tribute to him later this month. While there are many elements that contributed to Coleman’s compelling character, we delighted in these particular facts about his life.

1) Coleman had a rich history with New York City. His first ever gig in the city, at the Five Spot Café, grew from a two-week booking into a two-and-a-half-month residency. His mark on NYC’s local music scene didn’t stop there. Coleman would later purchase part of a building on Prince Street and named it “Artists House.” It became a creative hub out of which grew a record label of the same name as well as regularly organized concerts.

2) Fellow jazz musicians adored Coleman’s eccentric music and personal style. After spending just 12 minutes on stage with Coleman in 1961, John Coltrane said it was “the most intense moment of my life.” Another favorite reflection on Ornette is David Was’ reference to him as “the Samuel Beckett of jazz.”

3) In a 1997 interview with French philosopher Jacques Derrida, Coleman tells the story of how “Lonely Woman” was inspired by a department store painting of a wealthy woman who seemed to have everything but a smile.

4) At one point in his career, Coleman moved to Los Angeles and became a Jehovah’s Witness. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he commented, “…they had a saying: ‘You should only work on the one thing that you want to do forever.’ That really appealed to me.” According to trumpeter Don Cherry, this period of Coleman’s life coincided with a preference of sporting handmade clothing crafted by his wife which created a “Christ [look] but [like] no Christ anybody had ever seen before.”

5) As Coleman’s sound became increasingly avant-garde, his sphere of influence began to widen as well. Thomas Pynchon’s debut novel, V., was largely inspired by Coleman’s impact on the jazz world and even included a main character who played a white saxophone, much like Coleman’s favorite alto.  

6) Ted Nash, of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and music director for this month’s Coleman tribute show, shared his favorite anecdote that encapsulates Coleman’s term “harmolodics.” Years ago, during a rehearsal session, Coleman played a very complex solo, full of rich harmonies with chords seemingly falling on each beat in a measure. When Dewey Redman asked Coleman to share the harmonic structure, he quickly realized that weren’t any chords. Nash commented, “I think this expresses perfectly what Coleman’s improvising was about - totally intuitive and so clear in intention that it sounded organized.” Nash goes on to say that this unique take on harmony and rhythm, defined by Coleman as “harmolodics,” embraces the freedom to “play what you feel and put a blue note in there every once in a while.”

Listen the Jazz at Lincoln Center-curated playlist "Celebrating Ornette Coleman" to get a taste this influential artist's music!

Be sure to check out the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis's tribute to Ornette Coleman on May 18th and 19th!


read more

Apple Music subscribers rejoice: we have plenty of exclusive content for you! Head over to Apple Music now to hear our new, curated playlists, and follow us to ensure you get new music on the fly.

read more

Ornette Coleman left an incredible recorded legacy, many of them genre-changing masterpieces.


popular


Photo by Lawrence Sumulong

The Essential Guide to Best Jazz Clubs in NYC

NYC's breadth of unique venues across town include legendary landmark locations, contemporary elegant lounges & no-frills bebop joints that provide a diverse community of swinging experiences.

read more

10 Essential Piano Jazz Records

Every fan of piano jazz needs to know these 10 classics!

read more

10 Essential South African Jazz Records

We celebrate the history of South African jazz with these essential records.

read more
Duke Ellington

The Essential Ellington: How Duke Ellington Changed Jazz Forever

Nobody in the history of jazz expressed himself more freely; or with more variety, swing, and sophistication than Duke Ellington. Listen to our playlist of essential Ellington recordings and find out how he changed jazz forever.

read more
Nina and Nat

And the Inductees Are… Your 2018 Choices for the Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame

Find out who the three 2018 inductees into the Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame are! All three made an indelible impact on America's music and influenced millions in the process.

read more
Ahmad Jamal - Photo by Frank Stewart for Jazz at Lincoln Center

Another 10 Essential Jazz Albums

Here's a list of 10 more must-have classics to round out your collection of jazz records.

read more
Thelonious Monk at the 1965 Newport Jazz Festival with his children, T.S. and Boo Boo.

10 Things You Didn't Know About Thelonious Monk, by His Son T.S. Monk

Celebrate Thelonious Monk by getting to know the legend through his son’s memories.

read more
Chick Corea - photo by Frank Stewart for Jazz at Lincoln Center

Chick Corea: Five Essential Albums

Chick Corea is one of the most influential figures in jazz and one of the greatest living jazz pianists. Here are five essential albums from his discography.

read more
Wynton Marsalis performs on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Celebrating Spaces and The Abyssinian Mass with Colbert on The Late Show

Wynton Marsalis appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to perform with Jon Batiste, Stay Human, and acclaimed dancer Lil Buck. Check out video and behind-the-scenes content from their performance.

read more

10 Essential Jazz Albums

New to jazz and don't know where to start? With many artists and extensive catalogues of music, a new jazz listener can feel intimidated. We're here to help! Check out our list of 10 albums to get you started on your jazz journey and introduce yourself to some of jazz's great artists.

read more

A Visit to Clark Terry

On December 7, 2014 the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra drove 8 hours on an off day to play for Clark Terry on his 94th birthday. Victor Goines, James Chirillo, Ted Nash, Vincent Gardner, and Walter Blanding recall the day and the impact that Clark had on jazz.

read more

recommended


Photo by Lawrence Sumulong

The Essential Guide to Best Jazz Clubs in NYC

NYC's breadth of unique venues across town include legendary landmark locations, contemporary elegant lounges & no-frills bebop joints that provide a diverse community of swinging experiences.

read more

10 Essential South African Jazz Records

We celebrate the history of South African jazz with these essential records.

read more
Gerald Cannon

Gerald Cannon Talks Dizzy's, His Early Days, & Love of Teaching

We sat down with Gerald Cannon ahead of his Memorial Day Weekend performances at Dizzy's.

read more
Will Calhoun

Will Calhoun Talks Individuality, Elvin Jones, and Dizzy’s

Discover how growing up in the Bronx shaped Will Calhoun’s appreciation for art and how Elvin Jones inspired him to define his individuality.

read more
Ornette Coleman

The Department Store Painting that Inspired Ornette Coleman and 5 Other Interesting Facts About His Life

Ornette Coleman led a life as fascinating as his music. Read up on some interesting facts about this jazz legend!

read more
Joe Temperley, by Frank Stewart for Jazz at Lincoln Center

Notes from the Road: Remembering Joe Temperley

Before his passing in May, Joe Temperley spent 29 unforgettable years as the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra's baritone saxophonist and its beloved elder statesman. Between performances on their recent mini-tour of Canada, several JLCO members shared their memories of Temperley, who left behind an indelible legacy and a whole lot of stories.

read more

6 Underappreciated Jazz Artists You Should Check Out

April is Jazz Appreciation Month, so we thought we'd celebrate by delving into the careers of a handful of underappreciated jazz artists. Explore the careers of six musicians who deserve more accolades and learn the best places to start with their discographies.

read more