An impeccably researched biography of an influential figure in American music, the goal of which is “to draw attention away from the circumstances surrounding Ayler’s death and bring it sharply back to the legacy he left behind.”
In this edition, producer Bob Thiele talks with Michael Jarrett, author of Pressed For All Time: Producing the Great Jazz Albums from Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday to Miles Davis and Diana Krall about working with John Coltrane on his classic 1964 recording A Love Supreme
This saxophonist – best known for his Blue Note soul-jams of the 1960s – replaced John Coltrane in Earl Bostic’s early R&B/jazz band, played in Max Roach’s band after his time in the military, and was married to the organist Shirley Scott. Who is he?
. . photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress Sidney Bechet at Jimmy Ryan’s, New York, N.Y., ca. 1947 . …..I don’t know about you, but ever since Kenny G made himself known in the world of pop music, the soprano saxophone has been a challenge for me to enjoy. His “smooth” approach to the … Continue reading “Playlist: A sampling of soprano saxophonists”
He drove uptown on Riverside Drive, the motor noise magnificent. Traffic increased as he approached Harlem. Other drivers jostling to get ahead noticed the car first. A red Ferrari was not subtle in gray Manhattan, and the engine roared money and power and European elegance. Then neighbors would study the man in outsized sunglasses. Some recognized him, smiling or shaking their heads in disbelief. Others looked aggrieved, even outraged that a person like him could be driving a vehicle like that. Ferrari only built three-hundred of their 275 GTB.
Mosaic Records is offering prints of entire contact sheets of classic Blue Note recording sessions that, as described by Mosaic owner Michael Cuscuna, shows Francis Wolff’s “thought process and the progression of shots that lead to his final best image.”
Mac’s Restaurant and Nightclub in Eugene, Oregon is where the blues aficionados in Central Oregon congregate to enjoy Cajun type bar food and dance joyously to pounding, power guitar driven blues. Our friends Alan and Susan go there a couple times a month to satisfy their boogie dance cravings. Whenever my wife and I pass through Eugene, we end up at Mac’s with Alan and Susan. They also attend a lot of blues festivals around their neck of the woods and can be considered connoisseurs.
I too love the blues. I also love jazz. Susan loves the blues. She does not love jazz, “modern” jazz to be specific. Susan explains that when she’s dancing at Mac’s, she feels the pounding bass and drums and screaming vocalist and Fender Stratocaster vibrating her bones and muscles and eyeballs. That’s her heaven. That’s how she wants to
In a 2016 Business Insider post, the physicist Stephon Alexander – author of The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe – writes about the connections between John Coltrane, described by Alexander as a “musical innovator, with physics at his fingertips,” and Albert Einstein, who “was an innovator in physics, with music at his fingertips.”
Coltrane’s music, particularly his final three records, helped Alexander realize that improvisation is a characteristic of both music and physics. “Much like Einstein working with his thought experiments, some jazz improvisers construct
In a March 29 post on Slate, Fred Kaplan writes about the newly released bootleg recording of Miles Davis’ quintet (featuring John Coltrane), The Final Tour, a four-CD box set of live concerts in Europe from 1960. The tour happened a year after the release of Kind of Blue, so many of the tunes played during it is from that classic album. According the Kaplan, the music found on this Columbia/Legacy set is “radically different” and such a “jarring departure” from the album that “it demands we revise the conventional wisdom about these two musicians (Miles and Coltrane) and fills in some blanks…in the story of jazz, and where it was going, in those pivotal years.”
Kaplan’s essay includes a critique of the music itself – but of particular interest is his reminder of the
In Robbie Robertson’s entertaining biography Testimony, the rock guitarist tells a short story about a conversation he overheard Bob Dylan having with The Byrd’s Jim (a.k.a. “Roger”) McGuinn concerning John Coltrane’s influence on McGuinn when he wrote “Eight Miles High.”
The setting was Los Angeles, 1966, during a Dylan tour that employed Robertson and, among others, bandmates Rick Danko and Richard Manuel, who are referred to in the excerpt. The “Levon” in the story was the drummer Levon Helm, who left the tour after a month out of frustration of playing with Dylan during his initial “electric” period, when folk music purists routinely
The purpose of motion begins,
A clear mind, aware and in focus,
Ahead, the optical pathway lies empty and silent,
Slow at the start, breathing steady,
Stepping through the changes,
Favouring a motif,
As the intensity builds,
For years, the autobiography proved elusive,
speeding east like the double-jointed run
that skipped from white keys to black,
soldiers chased from Central Avenue battles.
Then the book took a rest, hiding out
in a nondescript store among academic texts,
tomes whose covers bore geometric shapes.
Cardboard screamed orange, red, and white,
the slow burn of a
I watch my hand remove the phone from the wall above the couch’s arm and there is a sweat in my ear as I hear a distant Miles Davis. I am called by the distorted voice of Miles Davis rasping my name.
John, he says, are you busy?
I let my eyes blur into my mother’s sofa, melting a monotonous no out of my mouth toward the receiver. I feel the room sloshing peacefully in waves around me and the buzzing of my lips from my mouthpiece and reed. My saxophone sits strewn across the floor along with my
In a brilliant piece titled “Universal Consciousness: The Spiritual Awakening of Alice Coltrane,” Britt Robson writes that “the closer one examines the genuinely phenomenal life, music and spirit of Alice Coltrane, the more inevitable it seems that she will also someday receive her proper due. The most striking aspect of her biography is that she became a master musician and a spiritual guru in the same way, by carrying forth all her accumulated wisdom in a welcoming synthesis, rather than shedding, judging and discriminating her way to ‘growth’ and ‘maturity.'”
This extensive biography focuses on Alice’s musical path, her marriage to John Coltrane, her ensuing spiritual awakening, and her influence on
In 1960, Eric Dolphy told Down Beat magazine, “At home I used to play, and the birds always used to whistle with me. I would stop what I was working on and play with the birds.” This imitation of birds (who, according to Dolphy, sing in “quarter tones”) was embraced by none other than John Coltrane, who said that the addition of Dolphy — and his philosophy — to his quartet “turned [the quartet] all around.” Dolphy’s playing helped set the stage for the music Coltrane would create later.
Also critical was their friendship, which was especially important to Coltrane since he was so consumed at the time by his alcohol and heroin abuse. Quoting a Coltrane friend, John Fraim writes in his 1996 biography Spirit Catcher: The Life and Art of John Coltrane that “outside of Sonny Rollins, Eric Dolphy was his [Coltrane’s] only true
Tunes come to me at morning prayer, after flax sunflower seeds jammed in a coffee can; when we went to Japan I prayed at the shrine for the war dead broken at Nagasaki; the tears on the lip of my soprano glistened in the sun. In interviews I talked about my music’s voice of praise to our oneness, them getting caught up in techniques of the electronic school lifting us into assault; in live sessions, without an audience I see faces on the flues of the piano, cymbals driving me into ecstasies on my knees, the demonic angel, Elvin, answering my prayers on African drum,
Ask just about any jazz musician, scholar or fan for a list of the greatest jazz albums ever recorded, and John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme — recorded 50 years ago today — resides on it. My own first experience with it was in 1975, on a late evening in a dark, smoke-filled, back alley cottage on North Oakland’s Alcatraz Avenue. My listening was guided by a dear friend who understood that this was not just music — it is what happens when musical genius meets intensity, sensitivity, and spirituality. So many details of that evening remain with me 40 years later, not the least of which was how I sunk into the couch, eyes closed, the worn Impulse album jacket never leaving my grip. I was amazed and I was hooked.
Over the years, I have found that a favorite discussion among jazz fans is their recollections of their first experience with this album. When I began developing content for Jerry Jazz Musician, one of the first ideas I had was to interview people who were either
The Five Spot Café, a club located in New York City’s Bowery neighborhood, was the site of a six month gig for the quartet of Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, drummer Shadow Wilson, and bassist Wilbur Ware. This engagement — coming on the heels of Monk’s cabaret card reinstatement — marked the merging of two of the most original voices in American music, Monk and Coltrane, in a space where cheap beer and good music attracted some of the city’s most influential artists and writers. Regulars included Larry Rivers, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Jack Kerouac, Frank O’Hara and Allen Ginsberg.
In Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, author Robin D.G. Kelley quotes Five Spot co-owner Joe Termini remembering the impact Monk’s quartet had on his club: “Once we hired Monk, all of a sudden the place was crowded every night. And frankly, in the beginning, I just didn’t understand any of it.”
I suppose what it is with trane and me is
he takes all the time he wants to take
even outside of time, sidereal time,
stardust time, bessie blue time,
trancey groove time, even arranged time.
long red hair
that cops and rednecks hated
he’d stride to his deep honey bass
feel its pleasure in his big hands
urge out music that turned souls to listen
his freedom plucking up down strings
Stanley Crouch — MacArthur “genius” award recipient, co-founder of Jazz at Lincoln Center, National Book Award nominee, and perennial bull in the china shop of black intelligentsia — has been writing about jazz and jazz artists for over thirty years. His reputation for controversy is exceeded only by a universal respect for his intellect and passion. As Gary Giddins notes: “Stanley may be the only jazz writer out there with the kind of rhinoceros hide necessary to provoke and outrage and then withstand the fulminations that come back.”
Following the path of its star musician John Coltrane, Impulse Records cut a creative swath through the 1960s and 1970s with the politically charged avant-garde jazz that defined the labels musical and spiritual identity. Ashley Kahn’s The House That Trane Built tells the story of the label, balancing tales of individual passion, artistic vision, and commercial motivation.
Excerpted from A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album, by Ashley Kahn
Miles Davis was desperate. He was in the midst of preparing for his first national tour arranged by a high-powered booking agent, and Columbia Records — the most prestigious and financially generous record company around — was looking over his shoulder, checking on him. “If you can get and keep a group together, I will record that group,” George Avakian, Columbia’s top jazz man, had promised. To Miles, an alumnus of Charlie Parker’s groundbreaking bebop quintet, “group” still meant a rhythm trio plus two horn players, but he still had only one: himself.
More than half a century after his bebop debut, and more than eleven years after his death, Miles Davis lives on. His music is used to pitch jeans, shape films, and personify an era. To this day, he is revered as the archetype of cool.
While several books have been written about Davis, including his own autobiography, due to his passion for reinvention and his extreme reticence the real story of Miles Davis has been obscured by the legend and widely misunderstood.
A successful recording generally entertains and communicates passion on an earthly, mortal level. We typically respond to an effective performance by humming the melody, tapping our feet, and sharing it with friends. It might even “stomp the blues,” as the critic Albert Murray suggests.
Few recordings, however, actually challenge a listener to address one’s personal essence.
Lee Tanner began using a camera as a teenager in New York City. An avid jazz fan from the age of eight and inspired by the jazz photography of Gjon Mili, Bill Claxton, Herb Snitzer, and Herman Leonard, he turned to documenting the jazz scene with a love for the music comparable only to his creative drive for visual expression. Photography, however, was only an avocation.
Village Voice writer Gary Giddins, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and who is the country’s eminent jazz critic, joins us in a June 21, 2002 conversation about jazz great John Coltrane.
Brown University professor Michael Harper, the first Poet Laureate of the State of Rhode Island, and author of the National Book Award nominated collection, Dear John, Dear Coltrane, discusses John Coltrane and reads his poems.
Joshua Redman entered the jazz world with tons of expectation and perhaps an unreasonable amount of hope. Pat Metheny went so far as to suggest Redman is “the most important new musician in twenty years.”
While Methenys point can be argued, Redman has created some of the most consistently compelling jazz during the last ten years. His music borrows from a storied past and experiments with an elegant future.”
While Methenys point can be argued, Redman has created some of the most consistently compelling jazz during the last ten years. His music borrows from a storied past and experiments with an elegant future.
Philadelphian Francis Davis is the author of several books, including The History of the Blues, Bebop and Nothingness and a forthcoming biography of John Coltrane. A contributing editor of The Atlantic Monthly, he also writes regularly about music for the New York Times, among others.
Nat Hentoff was born in Boston in 1925 and lived there until he moved to New York City at the age of twenty-eight. For many years he has written a weekly column for the Village Voice. His column for the Washington Times is syndicated nationally, and he writes regularly about music for the Wall Street Journal. His numerous books cover subjects ranging from jazz to civil rights and civil liberties to First Amendment issues.
Few musicians have had the impact on the world of music that McCoy Tyner has. His sound has influenced pianists in each of his six decades as a performer. Noted jazz critic Scott Yanow says, “Along with Bill Evans, Tyner has been the most influential pianist in jazz of the past 40 years with his chord voicings being adopted and utilized by virtually every younger pianist.”
While his career continues to move ahead, he will forever be best known as the pianist in John Coltrane’s famed Quartet of the early 1960’s, a group long since recognized as the ultimate jazz combo, whose eclectic, spirited work constantly demanded listeners to reach well beyond their safest star. A Love Supreme, recorded in 1964, is a landmark in music, and to this day the centerpiece to the Quartet’s vast, unparalled universe.
Author John Fraim is a very interesting man. Taking on a subject like John Coltrane is not a left-brain experience. He knew wisdom and historical perspective were required before writing about a complex, musical prophet, and wrote this biography the way Coltrane lived his life In his award-winning book, Spirit Catcher, The Life and Art of John Coltrane, he presents Coltrane’s life as spiritual quest, and in it creates a piece of art not often found in biographical form.