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Coltrane's chief legacy was his beautiful tone and his control of the upper register.

 (He had equal strength in all registers of the instrument--an unusual trait.) Wayne Shorter,

 Charles Lloyd, Pharaoh Sanders, and Eddie Harris all show traces of this legacy.



John Coltrane CDs:

 Ascension  /  Ballads  /  Best of John Coltrane / Impressions / My Favorite Things  / Selflessness  / A Love Supreme  / Giant Steps  Meditations 

Kulu Se Mama  /  Interstellar Space  / The Complete Africa/Brass Sessions  / Stellar Regions  / Expression / Afro Blue Impressions

Coltrane Complete Live in Stuttgart 1963

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John William Coltrane


Composer, Bandleader, Saxophonist


Saxophonist John Coltrane combined great emotion with excellent musicianship and discipline with freedom. Like [Charlie "Bird"] Parker, he did not have an extensive career compared to Armstrong and Ellington. His career lasted about twelve years, from 1955 to 1967.

John Coltrane was born in Hamlet, North Carolina, September 23, 1926. He studied saxophone in Philadelphia and began playing professionally in that city. Coltrane started to attain recognition while playing with Miles Davis from 1955 to 1960. In 1960 he formed his own quartet. In 1965 Alice McLeod (Mrs. John Coltrane) joined the group. Coltrane's short career ended with his death on July 1, 1967, at the age of forty.

Musicians disagree about other contemporary players such as Ornette Coleman, but there were few disagreements about John Coltrane. Coltrane was a fine saxophone player (tenor and soprano) in every sense. The prime concern of most musicians is the tone that a player produces. There is no way to imagine a musical sound without considering the quality of the tone. Coltrane produced a large, dark, lush sound from his instrument. 

A brief listen to "Ogunde" verifies this fact. On the album Giant Steps (Coltrane's first album under his own name) his beautiful, solid tone is most evident in "Naima." This record shows his confidence at this time in his career and reveals deeper feeling and conviction than when he worked for Davis. His drive is very apparent on "Cousin Mary."

Coltrane's chief legacy was his beautiful tone and his control of the upper register. (He had equal strength in all registers of the instrumentan unusual trait.) Wayne Shorter, Charles Lloyd, Pharaoh Sanders, and Eddie Harris all show traces of this legacy. The influence of Coltrane's very passionate approach appears in unlikely places, like in an occasional near scream from cool saxophonist Stan Getz. Coltrane said that Sidney Bechet was an important influence on his own playing.

Coltrane advanced jazz improvisation harmonically through long excursions into the higher harmonics of chords on an instrument that that is sounded where a trombone, or a man's voice, is pitched (the tenor saxophone).

Coltrane had great coordination between his fingering of the saxophone and his tonguing. This coordination allowed him such fast technique that he played arpeggios so rapidly that they are referred to as Coltrane's "sheets of sound." His sheets of sound can be heard as easily in his career as "All Blues" with Miles Davis, and a little in "Cousin Mary" with his own quartet. Coltrane's creativity with his sheets of sound was actually homophonically constructed music which had been carried to a higher level. He thought of these runs as if they were chords on top of chords. His fast arpeggios have great emotional impact, and he was an expert in the use of sequences.

A logical starting place for those uninitiated in Coltrane's music is miles Davis' recording of Kind of Blue. On "All Blues," "So What," and "Freddie Freeloader," the listener can hear Coltrane when he was working for a fairly conservative leader. Therefore he had not expanded his directions very much and is quite easy to understand and appreciate immediately. it is interesting to compare the Coltrane of this album with Cannonball Adderly. On both "So What" and "Freddie Freeloader," Adderly shows a more direct association with parker and at the same time plays some very funky-type phrases not to be found in Coltrane's playing. In "Freddie Freeloader," Coltrane is blowing aggressively and melodically at the same time.

Coltrane played rhythmically but counter to that which was being played by what would normally be the rhythm section; so the music became arhythmic. This effect freed the rhythm players to play whatever occurred to them according to the melodic thoughts they were hearing. Coltrane could play "on top of the beat" whenever he wanted to, but he liked to play differently from the rhythm players with the idea that this freed them from having to play with him. His counterrhythms can be heard on both "Countdown" and "Spiral" on Giant Steps. he seemed to fuse melody and rhythm in "The Father and The Son and the Holy Ghost."

Eventually, Coltrane turned toward emphasizing the melodic line above all else. Chords were used only as they related to the melody. instead of melody being improvised out of harmony, melody was improvised from melody--an approach used by classical composers quite early in the history of music but seldom by jazz performers. Coltrane had the advantage of working with Thelonious Monk. From Monk, he was able to establish a mature, consistent relationship between the chords and his melodic thoughts. Monk stimulated Coltrane's interest in wide intervals, while it is very possible that his interest in various types of scales came from his time with the Miles Davis group.                                           Thelonious Monk Quartet (2005)

Coltrane broke away from the format of theme, solos, theme. On his recording of "The Father and The Son and the Holy Ghost," there is no real theme before his solo, and the ensemble portion has no theme at all. This is very disturbing to jazz listeners who expect only traditional approaches to jazz. In "Coundown," Coltrane shows his great coordination. The work sounds free; yet when chords are brought in under his solo, he is exactly where he should be harmonically.

An example of Coltrane's innovation is a selection called "India," recorded before the Beatles received credit for discovering Ravi Shankar. In this album one hears influences such as Indian scales and rhythms.

Coltrane opened the path for others like Archie Shepp through his conviction that improvisation could continue past all existing melodic considerations, harmonic considerations, and rhythmic flow. Free form seemed to need another leader besides Ornette Coleman. Coltrane became this leader with his long improvisations (sometimes 40 minutes), his sheets of sound, his tome, and his technique. he was looked upon as a spiritual leader. Coltrane and his followers have often been criticized fro playing solos that were too long, but their answer was that they needed the time to explore the music in depth.

At first Coltrane was admired more as a technically complete musician than as a creative artist. he showed speed as he cascaded chords with his powerful moving tone. But his recording A Love Supreme seemed to change the attitude toward his playing. it is a very emotional record that does away with some earlier excesses and is more a work of art than an exhibition. Coltrane tried to explain (in his music) the wonderful things that the universe meant to him. playing jazz was a spiritual experience to Coltrane, and he always felt that he should share his feelings with his listeners. There is no doubt about his strong religious motivation.

Coltrane continually experimented. Even when listeners were well acquainted with Coltrane's recordings, they would still be constantly surprised and amazed at each live performance. His fans learned to expect only the unexpected.

"Coltrane came, and he made music. He built on existing foundations. he and his music lived in inexorable relation to other lives, other ideas, other musics. But How he built! The musical structures are changed forever because of him

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Coltrane Discography

Ascension. Impulse Records, A-95

Ballads. impulse Records, S-32

Best of John Coltrane. Atlantic Records, S-1541

Impressions. Impulse Records, AS 42

John Coltrane. Prestige Records, 24003

My Favorite Things. Atlantic Records, 1361

Selflessness. Impulse records, AS-9161

Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz. Columbia P6 11891 (12 sides)

The Mastery of John Coltrane, Vol. 1 Feeling Good Vol. 2, To the Beat of a Different Drum

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Interstellar Space

John Coltrane's last recordings have a concentrated intensity and a pointed focus that give them the authority of a final testament. On Interstellar Space, recorded in February 1967 just a few months before his death, Coltrane reduced the idea of the group to its absolute minimum, a duo with drummer Rashied Ali. Without the fixed harmonic frame of reference provided by piano or bass, Coltrane takes each of his brief themes and submits it to extended testing--repeating, contracting, and expanding phrases until they melt into a new inspiration. These are performances of extraordinary technical achievement. Coltrane ranges over the tenor with a vibrato so tight it sounds like it might contort the horn, exploring incremental shifts in pitch and tone and bending notes from one register to another. But it's a virtuosity that may well go unnoticed amid the sheer passion of his work and the unknown goal toward which every improvisation moves. It's visionary music, filled with expressive necessity and the full tumult of life, embarking on journeys that are as apt to begin in serenity as end there. Rashied Ali matches Coltrane here as well as Elvin Jones had earlier in the decade, using continuous rolls and cymbal details to create a polyrhythmic backdrop that's filled with subtle, responsive shifts in accents. It's clearly all the support that Coltrane required.—Stuart Broomer

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The Complete Africa/Brass Sessions

In 1961 John Coltrane's explorations of different modes and rhythms led to several powerful works that invoked other cultures, like "Olé," "India," and "Brazilia." While those pieces were all recorded with expanded versions of his quartet, "Africa" was a unique opportunity, with Eric Dolphy's arrangements for up to 13 brass and reed instruments providing a setting of volcanic energy for Coltrane's majestic, declamatory tenor and the surging drumming of Elvin Jones. The orchestrations, as well as the solos, vary on the two sessions heard here, and there are also thoughtful adaptations of traditional material like "Greensleeves," a lilting feature for Coltrane's soprano saxophone that recalls the earlier treatment of "My Favorite Things," and "Song of the Underground Railroad." The two-CD complete collection expands on the original release with alternate takes of "Africa" and "Greensleeves" as well as a previously unissued recording of "The Damned Don't Cry."—Stuart Broomer

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Stellar Regions

This set is drawn from a February 15, 1967, recording session—one of John Coltrane's last days in the studio. The tapes had been in Alice Coltrane's care since the recording, and she gave titles to the pieces, overseeing their release on CD in 1995. All are previously unreleased with the exception of "Offering" which appeared on Expression. As on that release, there's evidence here that Coltrane's relentless musical search was drawing him ever further out. The performances are shorter, focused, with a magisterial lyricism seamlessly integrated with exclamatory shrieks and cries. There is an aching, though rough-hewn, beauty to Coltrane's playing on these tracks. With the exception of "Tranesonic" where he is on alto, he plays tenor sax throughout. His command of the instrument from the very bottom of the low register to the stratospheric heights of the altissimo is staggering--note in particular his "duet" with himself on "Sun Star" where he questions and answers with himself on the extreme ranges of the horn. There's a depth and wisdom to these recordings that only further extends the Coltrane legacy.—Michael Monhart

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When he died on July 17, 1967, John Coltrane was in a period of exploration, and while his musical pedigree afforded him a level of jazz authenticity that perennial outsiders such as Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, and Cecil Taylor could only dream of, the cathartic, rhythmically turbulent music of 1965-1967 tested the indulgence and endurance of even his staunchest fans. But Coltrane was a creative lightning rod for any number of improvisors, and while a few jazzmen, such as the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Julius Hemphill, followed his spiritual lead, his vertical constructs and open-ended modality also found fruition in the open-ended, electric blues and jazz of groups such as Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and the many bands of Trane's old mentor Miles Davis. "Ogunde" is an ecstatic, rolling ballad, all white-peaked waves and billowing winds, in the lyric tradition of A Love Supreme. Likewise, on "Offering," the centerpiece of Expression, Trane proceeds from a stirring lyric prelude, through spasmodic rhythmic abstractions, culminating in a jubilant, wailing dialogue with the droning, pulsating percussion of Rashied Ali.—Chip Stern

Source: The Study of Jazz by Paul O.W. Tanner and Maurice Gerow 

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John Coltrane, "Alabama"  /  Kalamu ya Salaam, "Alabama"  / A Love Supreme

A Blues for the Birmingham Four  /  Eulogy for the Young Victims   / Six Dead After Church Bombing 

Audio: My Story, My Song (Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)

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The transcendent power of music has long been recognized as a vehicle for spiritual practice and a path to spiritual fulfillment and enlightenment. Spiritual music, a universally powerful form of prayer, has for millennia provided human beings with a sense of the greater spiritual universe. Chanting forms part of many religious rituals, and diverse spiritual traditions consider music as a means of opening the individual to spiritual experience. I

n this episode of Global Spirit, host Phil Cousineau explores the transcendent qualities of spiritual and sacred music with guests Rev. Alan Jones and Grammy-award-winning singer and member of the Native American Onondaga tribe Joanne Shenandoah.  Experience the power of liturgical musical performances in Latin from Grace Cathedral in San Francisco (where the Rev. Jones serves as Dean) and witness powerful, live studio performances by Joanne Shenandoah and her daughter.

This episode also includes a hauntingly moving, seven-minute sequence from Peter Brook’s film, Meetings with Remarkable Men, in which the young mystic Gurdjieff learns the power of sacred sound as it resonates from the Afghan mountaintops.—Music, Sound and the Sacred

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Among the many forms in which the human spirit has tried to express its innermost yearnings and perceptions, music is perhaps the most universal. It symbolizes the yearnings for harmony, with oneself and with others, with nature and with the spiritual and sacred within us and around us. There is something in music that transcends and unites. This is evident in the sacred music of every community—music that expresses the universal yearning that is shared by people all over the globe.—His Holiness the Dalai Lama

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John Coltrane A Love Supreme

John Coltrane A Love Supreme  / My Favorite Things—John Coltrane

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My Favorite Things is a 1961 jazz album by John Coltrane. It is considered by many jazz critics and listeners to be a highly significant and historic recording. It was the first session recorded by Coltrane on the Atlantic label, the first to introduce his new quartet featuring McCoy Tyner (Piano), Elvin Jones (Drums) and Steve Davis (Bass) - neither Jimmy Garrison nor Reggie Workman featured as yet.

It is classed as another album in which Coltrane made a break free of bop, introducing complex harmonic reworkings of such songs as "My Favorite Things", and "But Not for Me." Additionally, at a time when the soprano saxophone was considered obsolete, it demonstrated Coltrane's further investigation of the instrument's capabilities in a jazz idiom.

The standard “Summertime” is notable for its upbeat, searching feel, a demonstration of Coltrane's “sheets of sound,” a stark antithesis to Miles Davis's melancholy, lyrical version on Porgy and Bess. "But Not For Me" is reharmonised using the famous Coltrane changes, and features an extended coda over a repeated ii-V-I-vi progression.

The title track is a modal rendition of the Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein's seminal song “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. The melody is heard numerous times throughout the almost 14-minute version, and instead of soloing over the written chord changes, both Tyner and Coltrane taking extended solos over vamps of the two tonic chords, E minor and E major. Tyner's solo is famous for being extremely chordal and rhythmic, as opposed to developing melodies. In the documentary The World According to John Coltrane, narrator Ed Wheeler remarks: “In 1960, Coltrane left Miles [Davis] and formed his own quartet to further explore modal playing, freer directions, and a growing Indian influence. They transformed ‘My Favorite Things’, the cheerful populist song from The Sound of Music, into a hypnotic eastern dervish dance. The recording was a hit and became Coltrane's most requested tune—an abridged broad public acceptance.”

A cover of the title track appeared on the OutKast album The Love Below.

It is one of the most well-known examples of modal jazz, set in the Dorian mode and consisting of 16 bars of D minor7, followed by eight bars of Eb minor7 and another eight of D minor7. This AABA structure puts it in the format of popular song structure.

The piano and bass introduction for the piece was written by Gil Evans for Bill Evans and Paul Chambers on Kind of Blue. An orchestrated version by Gil Evans of this introduction is later to be found on a television broadcast given by Miles' Quintet (minus Cannonball Adderley who was ill that day) and the Gil Evans Orchestra; the orchestra gave the introduction after which the quintet produced a rendition of the rest of "So What".

The distinctive voicing employed by Bill Evans for the chords that interject the head, from the bottom up three perfect fourths followed by a major third, has been given the name "So What Chord" by such theorists as Mark Levine.

While the track is taken at a very moderate tempo on Kind Of Blue, it is played at an extremely fast tempo on later live recordings by the Quintet, such as Four and More.

The same chord structure was later used by John Coltrane for his standard “Impressions.”

posted 14 July 2008

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It

By H. W. Brands

In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power--and the enormous risks--of the dollar's worldwide reign.  The Economy

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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Related files: A Love Supreme   Breathing Low & Steady   John Coltrane Bio    Blue Train    Kalamu ya Salaam, "Alabama"   John Coltrane Stuttgart 1963  Elvin Jones Jazz Drummer   Elegy for Thelonious