As an African-American musical pioneer, John Coltrane cracked the traditional shell of jazz music with an innovation of skills played to the beat of ground breaking saxophone harmonies.
Born into a musically inclined family on Sept. 23, 1926 in Hamlet, N.C., Coltrane was introduced to the elements of rhythms and motions in jazz music while listening to his father play multiple instruments on a daily basis.
From this exposure, Coltrane developed a deep, unwavering love for music, which led him to pursue a study of the e-flat horn and clarinet as a youngster.
Once in high school, Coltrane began listening to legendary musicians like Lester Young and Johnny Hodges, and was inspired to switch his instrument of study to the alto saxophone, not knowing that he would transform the world of jazz with this decision.
After high school, Coltrane followed his heart to Philadelphia where he continued his musical training at Granoff Studios and the Orstein School of Music.
However, World War II cut short his musical schooling as Uncle Sam beckoned his services in battle.
Regardless of the circumstances, Coltrane continued to nurture his talent by performing in the U.S. Navy Band.
Once discharged from the Navy, Coltrane was recruited to perform in the Dizzy Gillespie Band.
This period in his career sparked a creative impulse that ultimately led to his experimentation with harmonies, chords and sounds.
In 1958, when working with the Miles Davis Quintet, he became famous for using the three-on-one chord approach and a self-created technique called the “sheets of sound,” a method of playing multiple notes at one time.
By 1960, Coltrane formed his own quartet, self pinned the John Coltrane Quartet, and revolutionized music with albums such as My Favorite Things,, Africa Bass, and his monumental work, A Love Supreme.
Expressing a total adoration of God through complicated melodies and soulful chords, A Love Supreme was later certified gold and helped to earn him a lifetime achievement award on behalf of the Grammy Association.
In 1967, Coltrane succumbed to liver disease, yet his legacy as an innovator in the musical society, regardless of race, has played a major role within the realm of the entertainment world.
Coltrane’s music has been featured in numerous movies such as Mr. Holland’s Opus, Malcolm X, Mo’ Better Blues, Jerry McGuire, and the recent blockbuster Drumline.
His work has also served as background music to television shows such “ER,” “The Cosby Show,” “NYPD Blue” and “Days of Our Lives.”
The house where Coltrane lived from 1952 until his death is located at 1511 West 33rd Street in Philadelphia and is currently recognized as a National Historic Landmark, thus proving how great a reach Coltrane’s music has extended throughout the world.
For more information on John Coltrane check out: www.johncoltrane.com
A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album (Ashley Kahn and Elvin Jones)
Spirit Catcher: The Life and Art of John Coltrane (John Fraim).
Coryn Brown can be reached at McButtaflyz@aol.com.