Whether or not you're a big jazz fan, chances are you've taken a ride or two on the 'Trane. Legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane passed away 45 years ago today. He's been called "perhaps the most influential saxophonist of all time", and at one church in San Francisco, he's worshipped as a saint. Not bad for a sax player and former Naval officer from Hamlet, North Carolina.
Coltrane was surrounded by music from an early age. His father played several instruments, and got his son interested in the E-flat horn and clarinet. But in high school, the younger Coltrane took to a different style of music, and took up the alto saxophone. He was called up to the Navy, where he played in the band, in 1945, and returned to civilian life and playing in jazz bands in '46.
He says playing in combos in the '40s opened him up to things he "didn't understand, but that I felt emotionally". His interest in feeling, and pursuing new ways of expressing grand ideas through music, never left him. He was deeply influenced by Indian music and eastern religious thought, which played into his music.
Over the course of his career, Coltrane played with the greats, from Miles Davis to Duke Ellington to Sun Ra. His work with the Miles Davis Quintet in 1958 led to a breakthrough in his style of improvisational playing: "Miles' music gave me plenty of freedom", he once said, and that freedom led Coltrane to create some of the most iconic performances in jazz history.
Unfortunately, he died of liver disease on July 17, 1967, but his many recordings remain. He was awarded a posthumous Grammy Award for 'Best Jazz Solo Performance' for the work on his album 'Bye Bye Blackbird' in 1982, and he received the organization's highest honour in 1997: the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Today is also the anniversary of the death of Billie Holiday, who passed away in 1959. A sad day in jazz history, but also an opportunity to revisit some of the classic tunes from the greats.
Check out some of Coltrane's brilliant recordings below, as well as an hour-and-a-half video of live performances, below:
My Favorite Things - 'My Favorite Things', 1961
In A Sentimental Mood - 'Duke Ellington & John Coltrane', 1963
Blue Train - 'Blue Train', 1957
Naima - Live, 1965
Acknowledgement - 'A Love Supreme', 1964
Giant Steps - 'Giant Steps', 1960
Love - 'First Meditations', 1965
John Coltrane Live (1960 - 1961 - 1965)
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