In a career that has seen no shortage of groundbreaking actions and well-deserved honors, jazz icon Ornette Coleman achieved yet another historical distinction on Monday: winning the Pulitzer Prize for music for his 2006 album Sound Grammar. Although Wynton Marsalis won a Pulitzer in 1997 for Blood on the Fields, which is an oratorio on slavery, Sound Grammar is the first jazz work to earn the award.
The 77-year-old saxophonist-trumpeter-violinist was also bestowed with a Grammy for lifetime achievement in February. It appears as if the general public has finally caught up to Coleman, whose career has been at least partly defined by being well ahead of the curve. In 1959, when the majority of those who had heard Coleman’s music dismissed it as noise, winning a Pulitzer was unfathomable.