Ornette Coleman

Coleman spoke little of himself, and dismissed the idea that he was exceptional. The ‘autobiography of my life is like everyone else’s’, he wrote in the liner notes to his 1960 album This Is Our Music. ‘Born, work, sad and happy and etc.’ But the journey that led Coleman from Fort Worth, Texas, where he was born to a ‘poorer than poor’ family in 1930, to international fame as a free jazz innovator was anything but ordinary, and required no small amount of courage. The world of saloons, honky tonk clubs and travelling minstrel bands in which he performed in his teens was dangerous. Coleman was jailed for having long hair. When a white woman raised her dress over his head in the back of a Texas club, he knew he could be lynched if a white man saw them. In Baton Rouge, a group of thugs smashed his saxophone case, and left him with a collarbone injury that took years to heal. Adam Shatz. lrb.

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