The Wall Street Journal has posted a free link to my “Sightings” column about Ornette Coleman’s Pulitzer Prize, which appears in today’s paper:
This year’s Pulitzer Prize for music went not to a classical work but to an album of improvised jazz, Ornette Coleman’s “Sound Grammar.” That’s a first. Wynton Marsalis won a Pulitzer in 1997, but that was for “Blood on the Fields,” a three-hour-long composition for three jazz singers and a big band. “Sound Grammar,” by contrast, consists of eight unrelated tunes by Mr. Coleman recorded live by his quartet at a 2005 concert.
Should “Sound Grammar” have won? Was it even eligible? The Pulitzer is supposed to go to a “distinguished musical composition by an American in any of the larger forms including chamber, orchestral, choral, opera, song, dance, or other forms of musical theatre.” Whatever its other virtues, “Sound Grammar” is clearly not a large-scale composition, nor does it break any new stylistic ground for the celebrated and influential avant-garde saxophonist. Mr. Coleman has been making records since 1958, any number of which were far more memorable than this one.
So what’s going on here? Let’s start with a little history….
To read the whole thing, go here.