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Ornette Coleman

American jazz musician

Ornette Coleman (born 19 March 1930) is an American jazz saxophonist and composer.


"Let's play the music and not its background!"

  • 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


  • 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.
    • Gunther Schuller, quoted in Rockwell, John (1983). All American Music: Composition in the Late Twentieth Century. New York. ISBN 0394511638. 
  • 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.
    • Richard Farina

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