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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 August 2007, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
Free jazz pioneer's awards honour
Ornette Coleman
Coleman has been pioneering jazz since 1958
One of jazz's great innovators, Ornette Coleman, has spoken of his feelings after receiving two major music awards at the age of 77.

Coleman has won both a lifetime achievement Grammy and the Pulitzer Prize for music in recent months, the latter awarded for his latest album Sound Grammar.

The saxophonist told BBC World Service's The Beat programme that although he has often had a prickly relationship with critics, "I can't say it doesn't mean anything."

"It makes me aware of the growth that I have achieved," he said.

"I do honour people that know more than I do, and tell me if it's good, if it has meaning.

"If I have found a way to share what I do, to inspire people to go even further than what I don't know yet - that idea is the most supreme form of expression in culture."


Coleman is known as one of the great jazz innovators, pioneering improvised "free jazz."

In 1960, his album Free Jazz split the jazz world. By discarding jazz elements such as fixed chord changes, Coleman was hailed as groundbreaking by some.

And he remains unapologetic about how he has pushed at boundaries through his career.

"I've had people say, 'you can't play like that' - and I say, 'what do you mean - I've already played it.'

"I'm not trying - I'm playing."

However, early 1960s acclaimed jazz musicians such as Miles Davis regarded Coleman's music as a direct affront to their years of training - something Coleman rejects.

Ornette Coleman
I have taught myself everything I know
Ornette Coleman

"I wasn't thinking of insults, I was thinking of ideas," Coleman said.

"Imagine - if you don't have ideas, what are you going to do?

"They weren't playing movements, they were playing changes. I was playing ideas, changes and non-transposed notes."

He recalled in particular the day his mother bought him a horn when he was a young boy.

"I thought it was a toy and I played it the way I am playing today," he said.

"I didn't know that you had to learn to play, I thought you had to play to play. And I still think that.

"I didn't know that music was a style and that it had rules and stuff. I thought it was just sound. I still believe that.

"I am not that sensitive or that weak to believe that because someone says I can't do something, I haven't done it.

"I have taught myself everything I know. I have written symphonies, and no-one has taught me. Because I realised that the human being is all there is."

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