THE great Texas-born jazz musician, who died last week, worked in a number of genres — free jazz, symphonic music, funk — and it can be hard for newcomers to get a sense of him.
Here’s how I began my Salon piece on Coleman:
Miles Davis said he must be “all screwed up inside” to play that way he did. Max Roach punched him in the mouth after he saw him play. But Ornette Coleman, who died today off cardiac arrest at 85, lived longer than almost any jazz great, he made important and challenging music for decades.
How to get into Coleman’s music, which drove so many people crazy, influenced musicians in jazz, funk and dance music, and became known even among admirers (a group that included not just fellow jazzheads, but Jackson Pollock and James Baldwin) for being difficult and driven by an arcane theory?
RIP to a great, at times frustrating, always challenging artist.