How Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz Freed Rock and Roll

Always the kind of personality who cut through false distinctions, Coleman could boast a lineage both in punk rock and, with his collective-improvisation aesthetic, in the very music that punk rock often claimed to set out to destroy, hippie psychedelia and stadium rock.

Bassist Jack Bruce of Cream, who had a jazz background, told the Independent in 1992 that by the late 1960s the group that did “Sunshine of Your Love” and “White Room” was secretly “an Ornette Coleman band, with Eric [Clapton] not knowing he was Ornette Coleman, Ginger [Baker] and me not telling him. But there he was, doing these unaccompanied solos for 20 minutes, incredible stuff.”

Carl Wilson writing at Slate about the way avant-garde jazz musician Ornette Coleman influenced everyone from the Velvet Underground to MC5 to to Patti Smith. Coleman died on June 18th, 2015.
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