BMA Honors Late Jazz Legend

/ Art News - Collections

Ornette. Bob Thompson, 1960-1961. Oil on canvas. 80 7/8 × 77 5/8 inches. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Junior Patrons of the Birmingham Museum of Art, 2002.129.
Ornette. Bob Thompson, 1960-1961. Oil on canvas. 80 7/8 × 77 5/8 inches. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Junior Patrons of the Birmingham Museum of Art, 2002.129.

Yesterday, the world lost a jazz legend. A master of improvisation, Ornette Coleman believed in the imaginative and expressive power of melody. He introduced a new kind of freedom into jazz, liberating it from the rule of harmony. His compositions stood in dialogue with those of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, questioning assumptions about the very nature of the genre.

Born in 1930 in Fort Worth, Texas, this native southerner was awarded prestigious fellowships, a Pulitzer Prize, and a Grammy for lifetime achievement. He graced the stage at prestigious venues like Lincoln Center but also appeared on “Saturday Night Live” and at Bonnaroo Music Festival.

Much like Bob Thompson’s painting Ornette (1960-1961), Coleman’s point of view was unique. Both Coleman’s music and the portrait seem to come from all directions, capturing multiple viewpoints and bursts of abstraction, energy, and color. Thompson paid homage to Coleman’s talent well before the music establishment recognized him as a great musician.

Ornette is currently on view in the Museum’s contemporary gallery. Stop by and visit the painting to help us honor this great musician and the legacy he left behind.

Related reading

“Ornette Coleman, Composer and Saxophonist Who Rewrote the Language of Jazz, Dies at 85,” New York Times, June 12, 2015

“Ornette Coleman, Jazz Iconoclast, Dies At 85,” NPR, June 11, 2015