John Coltrane is one of the most well known musicians in jazz. He was very versatile in his music while also being highly innovative. Playing the saxophone, Coltrane revolutionized jazz constantly in his career through bebop (hard bop), modal jazz, and free jazz. One of his albums titled, “A Love Supreme” is seen as one of the best works of jazz ever created. Throughout his career, Coltrane dipped into various types of jazz.
Early in his career, Coltrane worked in bebop and hard bop. His album “Giant Steps” (1960) emphasized his use of his special chord changes called “the Coltrane changes”. It also incorporated the usual elements of bebop like fast chord changes, complex harmonies, and complicated rhythms. This album also incorporated more prominent drums.
In 1965, Coltrane released “A Love Supreme”, which showcased his new mastery in modal jazz. Arguably one of the most influential and spiritual jazz pieces, “A Love Supreme” was a masterpiece that incorporated the George Russell theory of modal jazz techniques. The use of improvisation and modes instead of chord changes really gave this album its unique and trailblazing sound.
Finally, it was in his later years that Coltrane fell into the liberating embrace of free jazz. In 1966 he dropped ” Meditations” which focused on nonconventional jazz. Without the binds of chords and modes, Coltrane was allowed to improvise and take the music anywhere he wished it to go. While he was a leader in this genre, others weren’t so accepting of it and saw it as “loud noise”. Free jazz was very controversial but that did not stop Coltrane from releasing great music that spoke to him and his creativity. Soon after free jazz, Coltrane moved on to more avant-garde style of music.
Through his ever-changing style, Coltrane managed to stay an innovator through his entire career. Pushing boundaries and creativeness is what marked Coltrane as a leading influential artist. Controversial or not, his legacy still lives on today through his entire discography and the true emotion that he poured into his music.