One man was responsible for these memorable and critically acclaimed albums. That man was John Coltrane. Born September 23, 1926, in Hamlet, North Carolina, Coltrane would go on to become one of the most influential saxophonists in music history.
Coltrane was introduced to the saxophone in 1943 when his mother bought him an alto saxophone when he was 17. He played clarinet and alto horn in a local band before starting to play the saxophone in high school. He started playing professionally with a cocktail lounge trio in 1945.
That same year, Coltrane enlisted in the Navy to avoid being drafted by the Army. After he completed naval training, he went to Pearl Harbor. It was there where his musical talent was discovered.
From 1946-1955, Coltrane worked with a wide variety of smaller groups, big bands and jazz and R&B singers. He would eventually go on to work with the likes of Johnny Hodges, Earl Bostic, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie. Gillespie asked Coltrane to switch from alto tenor saxophone and he did. That switch helped to enhance his sound.
Coltrane’s partnership with Miles Davis had its ups and downs, but it produced some great music. Davis challenged Coltrane to take his sound in a new direction and he also held Coltrane accountable for his personal troubles. Their musical relationship produced albums like The New Miles Davis Quintet, Round About Midnight and Kind of Blue.
Coltrane was known for his vigorous and intense style. His tone was described as huge and dark with clear definition and a rich sound. It’s been said that he picked up a multi-phonic style as a result of working with Thelonious Monk. Coltrane also was known for mode-based improvisation. This is when a solo is played atop one-or two-note accompanying figures that are repeated for extended periods of time. This can be heard in “My Favorite Things” which was a radio and commercial hit for Coltrane.
Coltrane’s A Love Supreme has been heralded as one of the greatest albums of all times by many. This album displayed Coltrane’s spirituality after turning things around in his life. He once said it was his attempt to say, “Thank You, God” through his work. The album was recorded in one session and the musicians accompanying Coltrane were McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums. Released in January of 1965, the album earned two Grammy nominations and by 1970, 500,000 copies had been sold. A Love Supreme was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry due to its “cultural, historic, or artistic significance” in 2016.
Ralph Moore, who is playing at the Lakeland Community Jazz Festival from March 15-17, 2019, is one of today’s highest ranking saxophonists and will be playing various tunes based off of the great John Coltrane.
-Article Written by Devon Fennell and Posted by Jeffrey Swan