Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Music Column with William Price King – Saxophonist Ornette Coleman 1930 – 2015

This week William Price King shares the life and music of jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman.

Randolph Denard Ornette Coleman was an American jazz saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter, and composer. He was one of the major innovators of the free jazz movement of the 1960s.

About Ornette Coleman courtesty of his official website: Celebrate Ornette

Ornette Coleman, the lightning rod. The most polarizing figure in the history of jazz. The alto saxophonist who outwitted segregation to hit the scene in 1959 and turn the music world on its head. Bursting through bebop and inventing harmolodics, a sound flowing with the unpredictable rhythms of being. He was called rebellious, disruptive, a fraud, thrown off band stands, horn mangled, shunned by his peers, rejected. Choosing to leave the music scene for long stretches, insisting his music be heard on concert stages and not restricted to small smoky basements. Knowing the cost of being a free thinker. He was guided by his harmolodic philosophy of love and expressing life’s surprises through art. Born in Texas, on March 9,1930, he is now called a genius, an icon, a legend, known as one of the most important figures in the history of music. One who is admired by artists across all genres for his convictions, the fight for freedom of creativity and to be one’s self. Ornette passed away in June 2015 at age 85; but his harmolodic song goes on.

Ornette Coleman’s earthly accolades, like his Mac Arthur “Genius” Fellowship, Grammy and Pulitzer Prize for Music, reflect the respect due to a soft-spoken man of small stature but giant mind. He dared to sidestep the system, both socially and musically, shape his life’s trajectory to his will against all odds – and forever change the way music is listened to and played.

Humble, yet with an impish twinkle, Coleman dressed in peacock silks and fine tailoring. His wardrobe was drenched with color and texture – as was his music. Throughout his career, Coleman never stopped evolving, and each phase of expression opened new sonic possibilities. Abandoning the 1950s bebop avant-garde. Switching from small, contemplative 1960s groupings to storming electric combos in the 1970s and ‘80s, driven by funky double bass and drums. Moroccan and Nigerian excursions. Philharmonic orchestra symphonies. Chamber music suites. Eerie film soundtracks. Hip-hop poetry. Coleman always lived up to the double-dare titles of his first galvanic recordings, like “The Shape of Jazz To Come.”

From the go, the players juggled with the risky science of harmolodics. The essential melodic core of the piece is firmly stated; then, ignoring a traditional 4-bar structure, they journey through their own ever-changing improvisations, attuned to each other’s flow, their individual lines embracing anew when they meet to resolve a theme.

Find out more about this extraordinary artist:

Now time to listen to some music that demonstrates the powerful influence this artist had on the jazz world.

“Lonely Woman” (from the album “The Shape of Jazz to Come”, Coleman’s debut album on Atlantic Records, released in 1959) features Don Cherry on trumpet, Charlie Haden on bass, and Billy Higgins on drums. “Lonely Woman” was Coleman’s first composition to become a jazz standard and spotlights his playing at its most poignant and lyrical. What inspired Coleman to write this song was a photograph of a woman, seemingly very sad, that he saw in a gallery where everything in the background of the photograph indicated wealth. Having never experienced wealth himself he understood the feeling of sadness which he could relate to. He let those emotions guide him through this composition. In 2003, the album “The Shape of Jazz to Come” was ranked # 248 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The Penguin Guide to Jazz awarded the album a four star rating. The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2015.

“Dancing in your Head”, released in 1977 on Horizon Records, is the fourth title this popular jazz melody has enjoyed. It originally appeared as “School Work” from Coleman’s Science Fiction album in 1971, as “The Good Life” in 1972 from the album “Skies of America”, and in 1977 “Theme from a Symphony”, which references “Skies of America” from the album “Dancing in your Head”. This infectious danceable melody is Coleman’s trademark and consequently became known as “Dancing in your Head”. Coleman gave the jazz world a new sound when he recorded this album with his new electric band, Prime Time. “Dancing in your Head” was voted the 15th best album of the year in The Village Voice’s annual ‘Pazz & Joe’ critic’s poll, making it the first jazz album ever to make the poll.

You can listen to the full album:

“Song X” was recorded by Ornette Coleman and guitarist Pat Metheny over a three day period as a free jazz album in 1985 for Geffen Records. The album features Charlie Haden on bass, Jack DeJohnette on drums, and Coleman’s son Denardo on percussions. The sound of Coleman’s saxophone was combined with a saxophone preset on Methany’s guitar synthesizer which created a fusion of the human sound of Ornette’s alto with the sometimes jarring, mostly bracing electronic sound of Methany’s guitar-synthesizer. ‘The Village Voice’ reviewed the album as Coleman’s best jazz project since the early 1970s, saying that Metheny’s calm style (no rock moves, and no funk) kept the music smooth. “Song X” was voted the 19th best album of 1986 in the Village Voice’s annual Pazz & Jop critic’s poll.

“Sleep Talking” is from the album “Sound Grammar”, a document of a 2005 concert recorded live on tour in Ludwigshafen, Germany, celebrating Coleman’s 75th birthday featuring Ornette Coleman on saxophone, violin, and trumpet; Denardo Coleman on drums; Gregory Cohen and Tony Falanga on bass. Coleman won the Pulitzer Prize for music for “Sound Grammar” in 2007, the first jazz work to be bestowed with the honor. This album highlights compositions from across Coleman’s career. The song “Sleep Talking” was originally recorded as “Sleep Talk” from Coleman’s 1979 studio album “Of Human Feelings” on the Antilles label. Coleman’s saxophone is as rich and exciting as ever and the two bass format generates a warm and groovy soundscape.


Additional souce:

Buy the music of Ornette Coleman:

Thanks to William for introducing us to the music of Ornette Coleman and we would love your feedback.

William Price King is an American jazz singer, crooner, and composer.

His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour.

While touring Europe he met a lovely French lady, Jeanne Maïstre, who, a year later became his wife. King left the group ‘Au Naturel’ and settled in the south of France where he started a new life on the French Riviera, opening his own music school – the “Price King Ecole Internationale de Chant.” He has had the pleasure over the years of seeing many of his students excel as singers on a professional level, and some going on to become national celebrities. He continues to coach young singers today, in his spare time.

His debut jazz album was entitled “Home,” and was a collection of contemporary compositions he composed, with lyrics written by his wife Jeanne King. His second album was a Duo (Voice and Guitar) with Eric Sempé on the guitar. This album included original songs as well as well known standards from contemporary jazz and pop artists. The “King-Sempé” duo toured France and thrilled audiences for more than three years before going their separate ways. King has formed a new duo with French/Greek guitarist Manolis, and is now exploring new ideas, in a smooth jazz/soul/folk direction.

In addition to singing and composing, King has been collaborating with author Sally Cronin over the past few years on her blog “Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life,” with the series “A Man And His Music – Jazz, Contemporary, Classical, and Legends” and now, the “William Price King Music Column.” Working with author Sally Cronin has been an exhilarating experience in many ways and has brought a new dimension to King’s creative life. King has also created a micro blog, “Improvisation,” which features and introduces mostly jazz artists from across the jazz spectrum who have made considerable contributions in the world of jazz; and also artwork from painters who have made their mark in the world of art. This micro blog can be found on Tumblr.

His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Tormé. King has a distinctive wide-ranging voice which displays a remarkable technical facility and emotional depth.

William Price King on Tumblr – IMPROVISATION

Buy William’s music ITunes

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You can find all of the Music Column series in this directory:

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed the music…thanks William and Sally.


19 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Music Column with William Price King – Saxophonist Ornette Coleman 1930 – 2015

  1. Welcome back William! What a fascinating history Ornette had and a wonderful legacy behind. Amazing talent and such a forward thinker back in the times when racism was at its peak. (We won’t talk about history repeating itself now.) ❤ hugs!

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  2. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Round Up – 11th – 17th November -Mexico, Music, Magnificent Recipes and Christmas Book Promotions. | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

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