Huge loss for jazz and freeform music fans the world over with news breaking this morning of the passing of 85 year old jazz innovator / freeform icon / musical theoretician Ornette Coleman. The groundbreaking jazz composer/alto-saxophonist, who was instrumental in changing and expanding the concept and path of jazz music, died earlier this morning, June 11th 2015, in New York City reportedly the result of cardiac arrest. In his oft times contentious music career Coleman, who in 1994 was awarded a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant, completely unhinged and unsettled the conceptions of what jazz is and in so doing opened the genre up to a whole new style into something more avant-garde and adventurous, adhering less the old rules of musical structure, rhythm, and harmony.
At the start of his career his approach and style fit in with the accepted jazz norms but as time went on he began to explore new avenues and questioned the very foundation of what was considered "jazz" as he began to apply his own ideas and concepts. As noted by his Amoeba biographer Coleman developed “harmolodics,” a word and a concept that combine harmony, melody, and movement just as his music integrates them in a radical assertion of freedom for each player in an ensemble, with Gunther Schuller noting that Coleman’s “musical inspiration operates in a world uncluttered by conventional bar lines, conventional chord changes, and conventional ways of blowing or fingering a saxophone...his playing has a deep inner logic.” Consequently Coleman's influence on several generations of jazz musicians is very great.