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Who Was the Drummer in Ornette Coleman’s “The Empty Foxhole” Album?

Jazz is a genre of music that is quite difficult to define. Ornette Coleman, and his experimental approach with free improvisation truly revolutionized the way the genre was appreciated in the 60s. Did you know who played the drums while he was recording his live album?

Instead of hiring a professional jazz drummer, Ornette Coleman had his then 10-year-old son; Denardo Coleman play the drums while recording. He appreciated his son’s musical curiosity and chose him instead of hiring a professional.

Who is Ornette Coleman?

If you have been a fan of 60s jazz, you would know Ornette Coleman as the founder of the free jazz genre. (Source: New York Times)

Coleman was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas. He attended the I.M. Terrell High School where he was part of the school’s band. He was later on dismissed from the said band for improvising The Washington Post march. He started his actual music career playing in local R&B and bebop groups.

He was so eager to leave the Texan town that he took a job with Silas Green from New Orleans. In a show at Baton Rouge, he was assaulted and his saxophone was destroyed. After the incident he switched to an alto saxophone, and joined Pee Wee Crayton’s band. He traveled to Los Angeles with the band and worked several jobs while pursuing his career in music.

While in California, he found musicians that shared his vision and recorded his first album with them. (Source: All Music)

Ornette Coleman passed away at the age of 85 on June 11, 2015. His life was celebrated in a 3-hour event featuring several collaborations. (Source: The New Yorker)

How Did Coleman Shape the Genre?

Coleman believed that there are infinite improvisational possibilities with music. That a simple melody could thrive beyond its structure. (Source: The New Yorker)

His ideas and visions on how music could flow as naturally as speech truly transformed the way music was in the 20th century. Coleman’s movement has inspired various jazz players of the 1990s. (Source: Britannica)

How Did Coleman Decide to Have His Son Play for the Trio Album?

We all know how quirky Coleman can get. Who else would decide to record an album with a 10-year-old rather than hire a seasoned professional?

When you listen to the music on the album, The Empty Foxhole, you’d know why Denardo Coleman was the perfect fit. The tunes in the album had a child-like simplicity and repetitive beats Listen to the album here. (Source: Jazz Desk)

Did the Father-Son Tandem Ever Record Another Album?

Ornette and Denardo Coleman went on to record two more albums under the Impulse label. After a ten-year break, Denardo officially became Ornette’s drummer. They went on to producing 9 more albums. (Source: Jazz Desk)

Where is Denardo Coleman Today?

By the 1980s, when Denardo was in his 20s, he started to manage his father’s career. He continued doing so for the next 3 decades. He went on to produce several albums including two for his parents. In 2017, he produced an album in tribute of his late father. The box set included two DVDs, three CDs and four vinyl LPs which covered 24 performances of the jazz legend. (Source: Jazz)

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