John “Trane” Coltrane

John William Coltrane born September 23, 1926 was an American jazz saxophonist and composer during the late 1940s up until his death is the late 1960s. John Coltrane was a pioneer to the Jazz music genre speaking through his music, making him one of the most influential jazz composers and saxophonist.

Born to John R. Coltrane and Alice Blair, Coltrane’s childhood was somewhat rough with the death of his father, aunt and grandparents all being within a few months of each other causing him to be raised by his mother and cousin. In June of 1943 Coltrane and his mother moved to Philadelphia, shortly after his mother bought him his first saxophone, an Alto. He played the clarinet and and alto horn in a community band before playing the Alto saxophone in high school. From early 1945- mid 1945 Coltrane played in a cocktail lounge trio with a piano and guitar. A pivotal point in Coltrane’s career was in June 1945 when he saw Charlie Parker, another famous jazz saxophonist, for the first time.

Coltrane in Navy

Mid 1945 Coltrane enlisted in the Navy to prevent himself from being drafted by the Army. He was trained in upstate New York as an apprentice seaman before he was shipped to Pearl Harbor where he was stationed at Manana Barracks. As Coltrane arrived in Hawaii around late 1945, the Navy was downsizing. With great talent, Coltrane became one of the few Navy men to serve as a musician without a musician’s rating. Joining the Melody Masters, an all white band, John Coltrane was treated as a guest musician in order to throw off superior officers. when not performing, Coltrane worked in the kitchen and as security. Towards the end of his service, Coltrane assumed a leadership position in the band. He would have his first informal recording session in Hawaii on July 13, 1946. He was discharged from the Navy in August of 1946.

After being discharged from the Navy Coltrane returned to Philly where he began focusing on the bebop scene. After touring with King Kolax, he joined Jimmy Heath’s band, introduced to by his former Navy buddy. He studied jazz theory with Dennis Sandole before he began playing Tenor Saxophone in 1947 with Eddie Vinson. Coltrane was very dedicated to perfecting his craft usually practicing 24 hours a day. Once, a noise complaint was filed against him in a hotel. This resulted in Coltrane practicing with his fingers for an hour. He idolized other musicians like Charlie Parker, who he had the opportunity to perform with in the late 1940s, and Hasaan Ibn Ali, a pianist, composer and theorist.

Miles Davis and John Coltrane

In October of 1955 Coltrane would join Miles Davis’ quintet. the group would unfortunately disband in April 0f 1957 due to John Coltrane’s heroin addiction. With a quick break and playing with Thelonius Monk’s quartet from July 1957-December 1957, Coltrane would find himself workin with Davis again in 1958. Davis and Coltrane played and worked together until 1960 as Coltrane was beginning to branch out on his own. During this year he recored one of his most famous pieces, Giant Steps and started his own quartet. Their first recording would be “My Favorite Things”(1961) also being Coltrane’s first album on the Soprano Saxophone. Towards the end of his career Coltrane recorded most of his albums for Impulse Records. He would die of Liver Caner at the age of 40 in 1967.

Though Passing at a young age and battling many addictions, including rumors of LSD, John Coltrane influenced Jazz music Heavily. With the help of His first with Namia, Coltrane was able to have a spiritual awakening aiding him in overcoming his Heroin Addiction. Coltrane’s musical influence was so strong that the Yardbird Temple worships Coltrane where he is known as Saint Coltrane.

Giant Steps

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