49. John Coltrane

John Coltrane is a jazz composer and saxophone player from High Point, North Carolina. He received his first saxophone as a gift when he was about sixteen years old, and within a couple years was playing professionally. He enlisted in the Navy in August, 1945, where he was recognized for his growing musical talent. A year later, he returned to Philadelphia, where he continued to pursue his passion for music.

By the early fifties, he was working on and off with major jazz artists. In 1955, his career stepped forward when trumpeter Miles Davis invited Coltrane to join a new quintet, and in 1957 he began his career as a session leader. Over the next decade, “Trane” evolved dramatically as a jazz musician, moving from be-bop into uncharted territory, exploring avant-garde and so-called “free jazz” musical styles. He made music as a solo performer and a sideman; his work with Thelonious Monk and continuing efforts with Miles Davis are considered essential jazz education. His spiritual “awakening” in 1957 helped him beat heroin addiction, and his 1964 album A Love Supreme was inspired by his quest for purity. Sadly, he developed cancer of the liver, and died rather unexpectedly in 1967, only forty years old. John Coltrane was a master improviser and musical thinker, and is considered one of the great intellectuals of his era.


John Coltrane (1926-1967), saxophone, composer

Official John Coltrane Website
Thesis: John Coltrane, Avant-Garde Jazz and the Evolution of “My Favorite Things”, by Scott Anderson
PBS Jazz Biography Resource Page for John Coltrane

A Short List of Collaborators:

Miles Davis (1926-1991), trumpet, composer
Thelonious Monk (1917-1982), piano, composer
McCoy Tyner (b. 1938), piano, composer
William “Red” Garland (1923-1994), piano
Jimmy Garrison (1934-1976), bass
Elvin Jones (1927-2004), drums

Finding Coltrane (and Others)

I grew up when “guitar gods” ruled, a period of relative excess when many songs featured lengthy guitar solos. Accomplished guitarists such as Eric Clapton and Duane Allman were very popular in the early seventies. Though primarily influenced by rhythm and blues, and its short instrumental breaks, they were also exposed to the lengthy and complex jazz improvisations featured in modern jazz recordings. In particular, Allman was a huge fan of Miles Davis’s modal jazz classic Kind Of Blue.

My friends and I coveted great guitar solos. As a result, I began to explore jazz and other improvisational forms of music. My father liked the great soloists of his generation, people like Benny Goodman and Sidney Bechet. I began to dip my toes into the complex world of Charlie Parker and bebop jazz. And from there, you get to John Coltrane; by the mid-eighties, I had purchased a best-of compilation by the legendary saxophonist.

I have no business making academic statements about Mr. Coltrane. He seems to have been an obsessive man, driven to explore music to its outer boundaries. I am less familiar with his career than most of the artists in the “big countdown”. I can give the casual listener a nice place to start enjoying his music. I consider my musical tastes wide open, but some of the free jazz movement of the sixties is beyond my comprehension and enjoyment. However, I have included a few academic papers for jazz students.

Description of Modal Jazz
“Giant Steps, Central Park West, and Modulatory Cycles”, by Michael Leibson

John Coltrane Song Notes:

1. In general, I chose the original studio version of each song.

2. “Naima (Alt)” can be found on The Heavyweight Champion.

John Coltrane Songs:

Naima, John Coltrane ✭✭✭✭
In A Sentimental Mood, John Coltrane & Duke Ellington ✭✭✭✭

A Love Supreme, John Coltrane ✭✭✭
My Favorite Things, John Coltrane ✭✭✭
Equinox, John Coltrane ✭✭✭
Naima (Alt), John Coltrane ✭✭✭
Central Park West, John Coltrane ✭✭✭
Alabama, John Coltrane ✭✭✭
Stella By Starlight, John Coltrane & Miles Davis ✭✭✭
Why Was I Born?, John Coltrane & Kenny Burrell ✭✭✭
My One And Only Love, John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman ✭✭✭
Lush Life, John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman ✭✭✭

Blue Train, John Coltrane ✭✭
Naima (Alt), John Coltrane ✭✭
My Little Brown Book, John Coltrane & Duke Ellington ✭✭
On Green Dolphin Street, John Coltrane & Miles Davis ✭✭

Giant Steps, John Coltrane
Impressions, John Coltrane
Pursuance/Psalm, John Coltrane
Mr. P.C., John Coltrane
Bags & Trane, John Coltrane & Milt Jackson

Related Songs:

Impressions, Stanley Turrentine ✭✭✭

My Favorite Things, Julie Andrews ✭✭✭

Why Was I Born?, Billie Holiday

Naima, Carlos Santana & John McLaughlin ✭✭
Naima (Take 4), Carlos Santana & John McLaughlin ✭✭
Naima, David Grisman ✭✭

As Sideman for Miles Davis

So What, Miles Davis ✭✭✭✭
All Blues, Miles Davis ✭✭✭✭

Blue In Green, Miles Davis ✭✭✭
Milestones, Miles Davis ✭✭✭
It Never Entered My Mind, Miles Davis ✭✭✭

Flamenco Sketches, Miles Davis ✭✭
Freddie Freeloader, Miles Davis ✭✭
Walkin’, Miles Davis ✭✭
Blue ‘N’ Boogie, Miles Davis ✭✭
Solar, Miles Davis ✭✭
Four, Miles Davis ✭✭
Trane’s Blues, Miles Davis ✭✭
Ahmad’s Blues, Miles Davis ✭✭
All Of You, Miles Davis ✭✭
Someday My Prince Will Come, Miles Davis ✭✭

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