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Ornette Coleman, jazz innovator and disruptor, dies at 85

Ornette Coleman, jazz innovator and disruptor, dies at 85

When saxophonist Ornette Coleman played clubs in Los Angeles in the mid-1950s, audiences often covered their ears and waited outside until his set was done. He shunned the conventions of melody and harmony and encouraged his bandmates to do the same, producing a sound too dissonant for mainstream tastes. So in 1959, when the iconoclastic musician and composer blew into New York for a gig at the legendary Five Spot jazz club, hostility flowed — drummer Max Roach expressed his disapproval by punching Coleman in the mouth. But the club was filled, night after night, for weeks. By the the end of his run, Coleman had launched a new kind of cool. “He’s doing the only...

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