Ornette Coleman, one of jazz’s most influential and innovative musicians and composers, died Thursday, June 11, 2015 at 85.
Coleman, whose primary instrument was the alto saxophone, was a pioneer of the avant-garde movement of the ’50s and ’60s, helping to steer jazz away from bebop and taking both melodic and rhythmic interpretation in new directions.
The “free jazz” that Coleman spearheaded — a new approach to melody and harmony, essentially coined as a term by 1961’s Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation, one of his landmark albums – was but one of the contributions that made his work both controversial and fundamental to the progress of his form.
“The whole notion of postmodern jazz is essentially his creation,” says veteran jazz critic and author Will Friedwald of Coleman. “But he is very different from other jazz innovators in one key aspect: Musicians influenced by Charlie Parker tend to play like Charlie Parker, but most of the musicians who were inspired by Coleman sound nothing like him.”
Coleman’s music continued to evolve through the decades, incorporating elements of funk and rock in the ’70s and ’80s when he worked intermittently with the group Prime Time. Coleman also teamed with artists from outside his genre, including Jerry Garcia and Lou Reed. In 2007, Coleman was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his album Sound Grammar.
For Friedwald, Coleman was “easily the most important figure in jazz” since Parker. “Virtually everyone in the music, from Miles Davis to John Coltrane to Cecil Taylor to Wynton Marsalis to Keith Jarrett, owes a huge debt to him.”
Harriette Thompson, who is a classically trained musician, completed the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon in San Diego in 7hr 24min 36sec.
She has performed at New York’s iconic Carnegie Hall three times and says she plays through old pieces in her head as she runs.
Thompson, who is a cancer survivor, started running marathons when she was in her 70s. “At that time I had lost several people in my family to cancer and I said, ‘Oh maybe I should do that.’ When I got out there the first year I just planned to walk it, but everybody else was running so I started to run with them.”
• 1864 ~ Richard Strauss, German composer and conductor. Strauss wrote in nearly every genre, but is best known for his tone poems and operas.
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• 1874 ~ Richard Stohr, Composer
• 1896 ~ Friedrich Gottlieb Schwencke, Composer, died at the age of 72
• 1899 ~ George Frederick McKay, Composer
• 1900 ~ Charles Swinnerton Heap, Composer, died at the age of 53
• 1904 ~ Emil Frantisek Burian, Composer
• 1904 ~ Clarence “Pinetop” Smith, Jazz pianist and singer of Boogie Woogie Piano
• 1924 ~ Théodore Dubois, French organist and composer, died at the age of 86
• 1926 ~ Carlisle Floyd, American opera composer
• 1927 ~ Josef Anton Reidl, Composer
• 1928 ~ King Oliver and his band recorded Tin Roof Blues for Vocalion Records.
• 1939 ~ Wilma Burgess, Country singer
• 1940 ~ Joey Dee (Joseph DiNicola), Singer with Joey Dee and The Starliters
• 1940 ~ The Ink Spots recorded Maybe on Decca Records. By September, 1940, the song had climbed to the number two position on the nation’s pop music charts.
• 1946 ~ John Lawton, Singer
• 1949 ~ Hank Williams sang a show-stopper on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. He sang the classic LovesickBlues, one of his most beloved songs. 1951 ~ Bonnie Pointer, Grammy Award-winning singer (with sister Anita) in the Pointer Sisters
• 1955 ~ Marcel Louis Auguste Samuel-Rousseau, Composer, died at the age of 72
• 1961 ~ Roy Orbison was wrapping up a week at number one on the Billboard record chart with Running Scared, his first number one hit. Orbison recorded 23 hits for the pop charts, but only one other song made it to number one: Oh Pretty Woman in 1964. He came close with a number two effort, Crying, number four with Dream Baby and number five with Mean Woman Blues. Orbison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987; but suffered a fatal heart attack just one year later.
• 1964 ~ The group, Manfred Mann, recorded Do Wah Diddy Diddy
• 1966 ~ Janis Joplin made her first onstage appearance — at the Avalon ballroom in San Francisco. She began her professional career at the age of 23 with Big Brother and The Holding Company. The group was a sensation at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Piece of My Heart was the only hit to chart for the group in 1968. Big Brother and The Holding Company disbanded in 1972, though Joplin continued in a solo career with hits such as Down on Me and Me and Bobby McGee. Janis ‘Pearl’ Joplin died of a heroin overdose in Hollywood in October, 1970. The movie The Rose, starring Bette Midler, was inspired by the life of the rock star.
• 1966 ~ (I’m A) Road Runner by Jr Walker & The All-Stars peaked at #20
• 1990 ~ Clyde McCoy, Jazz trumpeter, died at the age of 86
• 1995 ~ Lovelace Watkins, Singer, died at the age of 58
• 2001 ~ Amalia Mendoza, one of Mexico’s most famous singers of mariachi and ranchera music, died at the age of 78. She was famous for songs such as Echame a mi la Culpa (Put the Blame onMe) and Amarga Navidad (Bitter Christmas). Born in the Michoacan town of San Juan Huetamo in 1923, she was part of a family of noted musicians. Ranchera music is a kind of Mexican country music that overlaps with Mariachi music.
• 2001 ~ Ponn Yinn, a flutist of traditional Cambodian music and dance who survived the Khmer Rouge purge and helped preserve his country’s culture, died of a stroke at the age of 82. Yinn was working under Prince Norodom Sihanouk, then Gen. Lon Nol, for the Classical Symphony of the Army for the Royal Ballet, when the Khmer Rouge overthrew Cambodia’s government in 1975. Khmer Rouge forces found Yinn during their campaign to uncover and eliminate Cambodia’s intellectuals and artists. He begged for his life and claimed to be a steel worker who enjoyed playing the flute. He was allowed to live, but was forced to play a makeshift flute nightly into loudspeakers to drown out the screams of people being slaughtered in fields nearby. In 1979, Yinn crossed through minefields and escaped to Thailand. In a border refugee camp, Yinn headed the Khmer Classical Dance Troupe. At a time when Cambodian culture was believed to have been almost eradicated – a result of the Khmer Rouge’s genocide of 1 million to 2 million people, the troupe was discovered by Western visitors. Yinn settled in Long Beach in 1984, where he taught music for more than 20 years and continued to perform.
• 2015 ~ Ornette Coleman died. He was an American jazz saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter and composer. He was one of the major innovators of the free jazz movement of the 1960s.