January 9, 2009 – 4:25 am


Ornette Coleman, the alto saxophonist and composer who was one of the most powerful and contentious innovators in the history of jazz, died on June 11, 2015 in Manhattan. He was 85. The cause was cardiac arrest, a family representative said. Coleman widened the options in jazz and helped change its course. Partly through his example in the late 1950s and early ’60s, jazz became less beholden to the rules of harmony and rhythm and gained more distance from the American songbook repertoire. His own music, then and later, embodied a new type of highly informed folk song: deceptively simple melodies for small groups with an intuitive, collective musical language and a strategy for playing without preconceived chord sequences. In 2007, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his album “Sound Grammar.”

His early work - a personal answer to his fellow alto saxophonist and innovator Charlie Parker - lay right within the jazz tradition and generated a handful of standards for jazz musicians of the last half-century. But he later challenged assumptions about jazz from top to bottom, bringing in his own ideas about instrumentation, process and technical expertise. He was more voluble and theoretical than John Coltrane, the other great pathbreaker of that jazz era. He was a kind of musician-philosopher, whose interests went well beyond jazz. He was seen as a native avant-gardist, personifying the American independent will as much as any artist of the last century. - The New York Times

+ + + + +

Click on the panels for a better view or to download artwork.

Skies Of America Live! [no label, 2CD]

Live at the Verona Jazz Festival, Verona, Italy, 1987. Very good soundboard.

After eight years of George W Bush, the United States has a new president who represents change and hope. Expectations must weigh heavy on Barack Obama’s shoulders. Even without the current financial turmoil, the president already has his hands full with Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is with this in mind that one turns to free jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman’s Skies Of America for inspiration.

In the liner notes to his 1972 release of the album, Coleman wrote: “The skies of America have had more changes to occur under them in this century than any other country: assassinations, political wars, gangster wars, racial wars, space races, women’s rights, sex, drugs and the death of god, all for the betterment of the American people. What then is left to happen under the skies of America but the goodness, a country with so many changes within the nature of its people must have something very special in store for the world to enjoy since it has done so many things to change its own territory and mental relationships to each other.

“Love, hate and lies live in the nature of all in some manner. America knows all three of these from the world and its people. Why, where and what is the purpose of a country that has the essence of mankind and the blessing of the skies. America is a young country. When it reaches one thousand years will its descendents care about the American Indians whose skies gave so much. All Americans know who, how and why their existence came to be American regardless of the condition. If only then one could be as true as the skies of America.”

In the Rolling Stones magazine review of the album, Bob Palmer wrote: “The most impressive quality of Skies of America is its emotional weight. The blues quality of much jazz playing is almost impossible to render into symphonic writing, but Coleman has long been known as a player of blues feeling rather than blues form, and he employs in Skies certain intervals that have “a human quality,” intervals he originally discovered on his horn. This music will leave few listeners unmoved, and it leaves room for a multitude of personal reactions to the negative and positive qualities of life under America’s skies.”

Thanks to nowave who shared these tracks on the Dime site. This is what nowave noted: “Here’s the complete Skies Of America recorded live in concert at the ‘87 Verona Jazz Festival. Rumor has it that the recording engineer walked out right before showtime, so guitarist Henry Kaiser got dragged in to do the live recording balance!”

Thanks also to fastone for the artwork.

These tracks are no longer available for sharing.Disc 1
Part 1 (41:04) (59.1MB)

Disc 2
Part 2a (42:18) (60.9MB)
Part 2b (5:18) (7.2MB)

Ornette Coleman - alto saxophone
Bern Nix - guitar
Charlie Ellerbee - guitar
Albert MacDowell - bass guitar
Chris Walker - bass guitar
Grant Calvin Weston - drums
Denardo Coleman - drums
with the Symphony Orchestra of the Verona Arena

Click here to order Ornette Coleman’s Skies Of America.


  2. I don’t know how to thank you for this gem: can’t wait for part 2!

    By gareth on Jan 9, 2009

  3. Glorious ! *many* THANKS!

    By V. Dorje on Jan 16, 2009

  4. Thanks a bunch!

    By Luis Torregrosa on Jan 25, 2009

  5. Amazing. Thank you!

    By the sobsister on Jun 14, 2015

  6. Stunning. ‘Thanks’ is not enough.

    By bing bongong on Jun 24, 2015

  7. Fantastic!
    I have seen you have got another version of “Skies of America”, Reggio Emilia 21th April 1990, maybe in the future we can listen it!
    Thank you very much

    By Alessandro Polin on Jul 5, 2015

  1. 2 Trackback(s)

  2. Jul 9, 2020: The Shape of Jazz to Come: A Guide to the Music of Ornette Coleman – Rock Salted
  3. Dec 20, 2022: List No. 82: An Introduction to the Music of Anthony Braxton – Rock Salted

Post a Comment