The theme of the conference is "Creative Change. Global Exchange."
Coleman burst onto the jazz scene in 1959 with his album The Shape of Jazz to Come, on which he improvised without a pre-determined chord structure. His 1960 double quartet recording Free Jazz, a 37-minute collective improvisation, gave a name (not always accurate) to jazz's growing avant-garde. In later years, he created a funk group called Prime Time and composed for orchestra. He is also the creator of a music theory system, impenetrable to most, called "harmolodics."
Coleman has been alternately honored and reviled for his innovations, but in recent years he has enjoyed a burst of appreciation from the artistic establishment. He was the featured composer at the 1997 Lincoln Center Festival, and in 2004, his music was showcased by traditionalist Jazz at Lincoln Center. Later than year, he won the $250,000 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize.