One of the main reasons why 1959 is often cited as a watershed year in modern art is the arrival of Ornette Coleman to New York; the release of his first major-label record, “The Shape of Jazz to Come,” in October of that year; and the beginning of his epochal gig at the Five Spot, in November.
The radical nature of his work was in its newfound, hard-won simplicity. Coleman, who died on Thursday, was born in Texas, in 1930, and got started playing rhythm and blues. But his advanced ideas—and his idiosyncratic habits—got him into trouble, and he continued having trouble (including insults from critics and from such musicians as Miles Davis and Roy Eldridge) even when he became a seeming overnight success in late 1959 and early 1960, after ten years of struggle.

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