John Coltrane

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John Coltrane in 1963.

John William Coltrane, also known as "Trane" (September 23, 1926 – July 17, 1967), was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Working in the bebop and hard bop idioms early in his career, Coltrane helped pioneer the use of modes in jazz and was later at the forefront of free jazz. He led at least fifty recording sessions during his career, and appeared as a sideman on many albums by other musicians, including trumpeter Miles Davis and pianist Thelonious Monk.


  • Rushin' Lullaby.
    • Coltrane answering producer Bob Weinstock's question "Trane, what was the name of that tune?". Coltrane and his band were actually performing a fast tempo version of Irving Berlin's "Russian Lullaby". (Soultrane, Prestige LP 7142/Original Jazz Classics OJC 021/OJCCD-021-2 recorded in 1957; original LP first released in 1958).
  • [T]he main thing a musician would like to do is to give a picture to the listener of the many wonderful things he knows of and senses in the universe. That's what music is to me—it's just another way of saying this is a big, beautiful universe we live in, that's been given to us, and here's an example of just how magnificent and encompassing it is. That's what I would like to do. I think that's one of the greatest things you can do in life, and we all try to do it in some way. The musician's is through his music.
  • Keep a thing happenin' all throughout.
    • Chatter before first take of "Dearly Beloved", addressing pianist McCoy Tyner (1965 studio recording issued on Sun Ship Impulse! AS9211 in 1971).
  • Q: What would you like to be in 10 years?
    A: I'd like to be a saint.
    • Asked by Kiyoshi Koyama at the press conference at the beginning of the Japanese tour ([July 7,] 1966), as cited in Katherine Whatley "Kiyoshi Koyama: A life lived with jazz", The Japan Times (March 29, 2018)
  • I thought about this question. I answered it as best I could [at the press conference]. I felt I didn't tell [the reporter] what I really wanted to say. He thought I was Christian. And I am by birth; my parents were and my early teachings were Christian. But as I look upon the world, I feel all men know the truth. If a man was a Christian, he could know the truth and he could not. The truth itself does not have any name on it. And each man has to find it for himself, I think.
    • From an interview at the Tokyo Prince Hotel (July 7, 1966), which followed the press conference, as cited in the booklet for Live in Japan (Impulse! GRD-4-102 CD-boxset of two concerts recorded during the month; US set released in 1991).
    • It is not clear from the source if Coltrane was referring to the question asked above.
  • My goal is to live the truly religious life and express it in my music. If you live it, when you play there's no problem because the music is just 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.
    • "The New Jazz", Newsweek (December 12, 1966), p. 108

Quotes about Coltrane

In alphabetical order by author or source.
  • John [Coltrane] was like a visitor to this planet. He came in peace and he left in peace; but during his time here, he kept trying to reach new levels of awareness, of peace, of spirituality. That's why I regard the music he played as spiritual music — John's way of getting closer and closer to the Creator.
  • I was playing this concert, and when I finished a solo, I backed offstage. There was Coltrane with the lights behind him, beatified. He held out his arms and took me in and I wept like a child. I'd been through so much, and held so much in, but I didn't cry until Coltrane told me it was alright.
    • Marion Brown, "The New Jazz," Newsweek (December 12, 1966), p. 108
  • [W]hen I was with him, he was as straight as a pin, but he had this sugar addiction and he loved these butter rum lifesavers. So he'd be pop—when he didn't have the horn in his mouth, he would be popping these lifesavers in, which satisfied his sugar craving, I guess. But he always had that... his breath always smelled of butter rum lifesavers.
    • Steve Kuhn in Joe Lovano / Steve Kuhn Quartet Remembering John Coltrane at Jazz Baltica, c. June 2008.
  • You know, John Coltrane has been sort of a god to me. Seems like, in a way, he didn't get the inspiration out of other musicians. He had it. When you hear a cat do a thing like that, you got to go along with him. I think I heard Coltrane before I really got close to Miles [Davis]. Miles had a tricky way of playing his horn that I didn't understand as much as I did Coltrane. I really didn't understand what Coltrane was doing, but it was so exciting the thing that he was doing...
    • Interview with Wes Montgomery, as cited in Ralph J. Gleason. DownBeat (1961), p. 24.
  • Eventually I became a tad compulsive about hearing certain songs. At first it was a handful of jazz classics-Miles Davis's "Freddie Freeloader," John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things," Frank Sinatra's "Luck Be a Lady."
  • In short, [Coltrane's] tone is beautiful because it is functional. In other words, it is always involved in saying something. You can't separate the means that a man uses to say something from what he ultimately says. Technique is not separated from its content in a great artist.

See also

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