Clip: Ornette Coleman wins Pulitzer Prize
Ornette Coleman Wins Music Pulitzer
NPR.org, April 16, 2007 · Ornette Coleman has won the Pulitzer Prize
for music with his recording Sound Grammar, a document of a 2005
concert recorded live in Italy.
Coleman's music was not among the 140 music nominees. Pulitzer
panelists used their prerogative to skirt traditional rules by
purchasing the CD and nominating the 77-year-old jazz master. This is
the first time a recording has won the music Pulitzer, and a first for
purely improvised music.
The concert features an unorthodox line-up of instruments, including
two double basses (one plucked, the other bowed), Coleman's son
Denardo on drums, and Coleman himself playing alto saxophone and
Coleman has continued to shake up the jazz world ever since releasing
his innovative recording The Shape of Jazz to Come in 1959.
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1930, Coleman received his first
saxophone at age 14. His mother saved money to buy the instrument by
working as a seamstress. At first, Coleman struggled to find his own
sound on the alto saxophone, but eventually developed his own formulas
of composition, breaking down traditional definitions of harmony and
The concept, called "Harmolodic," Coleman says, "removes the caste
system from sound."
Coleman has written music outside of the jazz realm, including string
quartets, music for dance, woodwind quintets, and in the early 1970s,
a symphony called "Skies of America," composed with support from his
Guggenheim Foundation Grant.
In 1994, Coleman earned a MacArthur "Genius" award, and has been
inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.