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The Life And Music Of John Coltrane

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A Brief Look Into

The Life and Music of

JOHN COLTRANE

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John Coltrane was born in born in Hamlet, North Carolina on September 23, 1926. John Coltrane was an only child. His father, John was a tailor who played the violin and ukulele, and his mother Alice played piano and sang in the church choir. This was a great environment to foster his love of music. Coltrane soon moved with his family to the town of High Point, where his grandfather was the pastor of the A.M.E. Zion Church. His family was very religious and this instilled in him a deep devotion in religion. At the age of twelve Coltrane's received his first instrument a clarinet which he played for hours on end, that same year Coltrane?s father died. A year after Coltrane?s father died his mother decided to move away to North to Atlantic City to find a work.

Young Coltrane stayed in North Carolina with relatives. By his senior year, he had learned to play a borrowed alto saxophone and was getting recognition from his classmates and even the locals. Work was hard to find in most of the Southern states in 1943, so when John Coltrane graduated he and two friends decided to move to Philadelphia, where one of the friends' brothers already lived.

Coltrane would live in Philadelphia off and on until about 1957. His decision to migrate north was a common one, and Coltrane did indeed find work as a laborer in a sugar-refining factory. A couple of months later he enrolled in the Ornstein School of Music on 19th and Spruce Streets. In Philadelphia John

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Coltrane could hear a lot of the blues and jazz which weren't often broadcast in the South further extending his experience and horizons. He continued to

practice his sax alone in his room until he was drafted into the Navy band in 1945.

He returned to Philadelphia in 1946 after being discharged. At this point in his life Coltrane was totally committed to becoming a professional musician. Coltrane worked a variety of jobs through the late forties until in 1947 he joined Eddie Vinson's jazz band, switching reluctantly to play the tenor sax to do so. The group toured extensively, particularly in the South and southwest. It?s at this point that he started to drink excessively to top off his already heavy smoking habit. A short while after that he joined many other jazz musicians with his new addiction to heroin. After playing for two years with Dizzy Gillespie, he moved with his mother, cousin, and some friends to Strawberry Mansions which was on Philadelphia's northwest side which overlooked Fairmont Park. It?s at this time he enrolled at Granoff School of Music for further training on the tenor sax. He was dropped from Johnny Hodges' band when heroin began interfering with his music. Nineteen fifty five proved to be a big year for Coltrane. He picked up his nickname, "Trane," and married his wife Naima.

It?s in 1955 that things really took off for Coltrane. He joined Miles Davis' first legendary quintet, which included Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. He came to national prominence as a member.

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Coltrane moved to New York in 1956. New York was the home of not only many jazz musicians including Miles Davis, but also record companies and recording studios. But disaster struck, Coltrane was kicked out by Miles because of heroin addiction. Coltrane was crushed and returned to Philadelphia once more in the spring of 1957 to kick his heroin habit and his alcoholism. With the support of his wife and his mother, he spent an entire week in solitude, eating nothing and drinking only water. He later described being ?touched? by God during the time, and dedicated his next recording, ?A Love Supreme?, to his Lord. "My goal," Coltrane said as if (arising from the ashes) like a phoenix to preach his ?revelation?, "is to live the truly religious life, and express it through my music. If you live it, when you play there's no problem because the music is part of the whole thing. To be a musician is really something. It goes very very deep. My music is the spiritual expression of what I am, my faith, my knowledge, my being."

He would get rid of his addictions and rejoin the scene with Thelonious Monk at New York?s Five Spot, which is know to many jazz historians as a ?legendary gig?. He eventually rejoined Miles, by January1958. From this point on, his tenor work displayed amazing fire and invention. His music used basic jazz as a starting point, incorporated Eastern ideas and free-jazz tendencies which included multiple or lengthy soloing with boundless energy. With Miles Davis, Coltrane's big tone would help make that group one of the greatest jazz

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ensembles ever assembled. While with Miles he participated in such classic Davis sessions as Milestones and Kind Of Blue.

In 1959, Coltrane released "Giant Steps," a groundbreaking album that firmly established him as a tenor master. His classic Giant Steps album contained the mighty tunes "Giant Steps" and "Countdown?. In 1960, Coltrane formed his own group. This group included McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison. This group has be acknowledged as one of the greatest and most celebrated groups in the history of jazz. They recorded and released a series of great albums including "My Favorite Things," "A Love Supreme," "Coltrane Live at Birdland," "Transition," and others.

Coltrane later formed another innovative group, working with his pianist wife, Alice. Together they went ahead with an extremely free and continuous improvising style.

Coltrane sought to lead a more healthy life, but unfortunately the excesses of his youth resulted in his early death at the age of 41 of liver disease on July 17, 1967.

. It is impossible to grasp the truth behind John Coltrane through a slue of facts and dates. All the facts about his short life, all the memories of his friends and fellow musicians, and all the analysis of his playing style tell us hardly anything about the man Coltrane himself.

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Coltrane?s belief was that Jazz relies heavily on improvisation. He was known to solo for forty five minutes at a time. One of the interesting things is the

same piece might be unrecognizable when he played it month later. The best way to understand Coltrane is to listen to his

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