Posted by Hip Hop 50's Shop on 7/24/2012
John William Coltrane Jr. was a legendary saxophone player and composer credited with pioneering free jazz and popularizing musical modes, forever changing the scene of American jazz. He is best known for his work with trumpeter Miles Davis
and pianist Thelonious Monk
, and was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize Special Citation for his “masterful improvisation, supreme musicianship and iconic centrality to the history of jazz.”
Coltrane began life in Hamlet, North Carolina, on September 23, 1926. His family later moved to High Point, North Carolina, where he grew up playing alto saxophone in high school and community bands. A year after moving to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Coltrane enlisted as a seaman in the navy and served until August 1946. Returning home, he freelanced around Philadelphia from 1947 to 1955 with different bands, touring with such notables as Eddie Vinson, Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Bostic and Charlie Parker.
Eventually he reached the attention of famous trumpeter Miles Davis who invited Coltrane (by now playing alto and tenor saxophone and guitar) to join the “First Great Quintet.” The quintet released several popular albums from 1955 to 1957 including Cookin', Relaxin', Workin', and Steamin'. John was fired by Davis at the end of April 1957 due to his heroin addiction and subsequent unreliability.
Determined to continue his career, Coltrane quit his drug use “cold turkey” that year and began anew with pianist Thelonious Monk at the Five Spot jazz club in Manhattan, New York. This engagement was a pivotal turning point for both their careers, earning them rave reviews and helping Coltrane reclaim his spot on Miles Davis's group in 1958.
Coltrane then proceeded to record two of the most famous jazz albums ever created, in radically different musical styles. He performed in Miles Davis' album Kind of Blue, featuring pared down background chords and complex solos. He also recorded his own album Giant Steps, which is praised for its uniquely difficult chord progression and for the initiation of “Coltrane Changes,” improvised and complex harmonies that are still widely performed and studied today.
After his success, Coltrane left Davis in 1960 to continue composing. He led a variety of different groups, always pushing the envelope from bebop to free jazz to fusion. His style altered as his studies expanded to include world music from Africa, India and Latin America. The influence of these styles made an appearance in his 1965 album A Love Supreme, a bestseller that was quickly followed by the album Ascension. John Coltrane played until his untimely death due to liver cancer on July 17, 1967.