All About John Coltrane

John William Coltrane, also known as “Trane”, was born in North Carolina in September 1926. He was a saxophone player and composer who played with Miles Davis and Duke Ellington. Coltrane started playing the alto saxophone in1945 during his teenage years and grew up with a love of music. His father was very interested in music and surrounded the young John Coltrane with this art form. Coltrane had a marked impact on American jazz music with his free form style of saxophone playing. His music had a unique sound that was inventive and creative and incorporated sounds from Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Melody Masters

Ravi Coltrane Honors His Musical and Personal Heritage (Photo by Joe Alper)

He joined the navy in 1945 where he played in the band called the Melody Masters. After the navy, he first toured with another jazz player, King Kolax (real name William Little). Afterwards, he joined a band in Philadelphia that was led by Jimmy Heath. He decided to also study jazz theory after the war and studied under Dennis Sandole. Although he began his career by playing the alto saxophone, he soon learnt to also play the tenor saxophone. This is the saxophone he played while he was a member of the Eddie Vinson band. John Coltrane was deeply influenced by Hasaan Ibn Ali who was a piano player and a composer in the jazz music scene at the time.

First Great Quintet

In 1955 John Coltrane joined a band that had Miles Davis in it. This was a good learning experience with both men influencing each other’s style. The band was known as the First Great Quintet. Coltrane went on to appear on many of Miles Davis’s albums. In late 1957 Coltrane also played for the Monk’s Quartet.

It was not until 1960 that John Coltrane formed his first quartet. The quartet played in New York City at the Jazz Gallery. Various musicians played in his quartet at different times. Around that time John Coltrane also started to play the soprano saxophone, which had not really been played much in jazz music up until this time. In 1965 John Coltrane produced an album that was called “The John Coltrane Quartet Plays Chim Chim Cheree, Song of Praise, Nature Boy, Brazilia”.

John Coltrane

In later years Coltrane became interested in learning about avant-guard jazz, which was different from the bebop and post-bop sounding jazz. It also was less free than freeform jazz, instead having a more structured arrangement.

Johns Death

John Coltrane was a very prolific musician, having written many pieces even during the final years of his life. John Coltrane died in 1967 at the young age of 40. Had he lived longer, there is no doubt that he would have had an even greater impact on the world of music.

He received several awards after his death. This included a Grammy award in 1981 for his recording entitled “Bye Bye Blackbird” and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992. He even received a citation from the Pulitzer Prize Board in 2007 in recognition for his contribution to music.