Happy Birthday John Coltrane, musician, composer, innovator, artist and space traveler, who rocketed “off the surface of the earth towards more specialized, little explored, and potentially dangerous atmospheres”.
Born today in 1926, Coltrane has been described as “the last great figure in the evolution of jazz”, who opened jazz up into a language of possibilities. He progressed from Be-Bop to Hard Bop to Free Style, and brought a spiritual sense to his music the culminated in his genius work Love Supreme.
Coltrane didn’t question his innate talent or technical brilliance, he allowed it to develop organically, seeing himself as part of a larger creative community as he descibed in a letter to Don DeMichael, in 1962:
The “jazz” musician (you can have this term along with others that have been foisted on us) does not have to worry about a lack of positive or affirmative philosophy. It’s built in us. The phrasing, the sound of the music attests this fact. We are naturally endowed with it. You can believe all of us would have perished long ago if it had not been so. As to community, the whole face of the globe is our community. You see, it is really easy for us to create. We are born with this feeling that just comes out no matter what conditions exist.
Truth is indestructible. It seems history shows (and it’s the same today) that the innovator is more often than not met with some degree of condemnation.; usually according to the degree of departure from the prevailing modes of expression or what have you. Change is always hard to accept. We also see these innovators always seek to revitalize, extend and reconstruct the status quo in their given fields, whatever is needed. Quite often they are rejects, outcasts, sub-citizens etc. of the very societies to which they bring so much sustenance. Often they are people who endure great personal tragedy in their lives. Whatever the case, whether accepted or rejected, rich or poor, they are forever guided by that great eternal constant - the creative urge.
Here’s Coltrane playing “My Favorite Things” - the crossover track that broke free of Be Bop, brought him a mainstream audience, and demonstrated complex harmonies and repetitions into “a hypnotic eastern dervish dance”.