21 April, 2009
John William Coltrane was an American jazz saxophonist and composer.
Starting in bebop and hard bop, Coltrane later pioneered free jazz. He influenced generations of other musicians, and remains one of the most significant tenor saxophonists in jazz history. He was astonishingly prolific: he made about fifty recordings as a leader in his twelve-year-long recording career, and appeared as a sideman on many other albums, notably with trumpeter Miles Davis. As his career progressed, Coltrane's music took on an increasingly spiritual dimension.
John Coltrane was born in Hamlet, North Carolina on September 23, 1926, grew up in High Point NC, and moved to Philadelphia PA in June 1943. He enlisted in the Navy in 1945, and played in the Navy jazz band. Coltrane returned to civilian life in 1946 and began jazz theory studies with Philadelphia guitarist and composer Dennis Sandole. Coltrane continued under Sandole's tutelage until the early 1950s. Contemporary correspondence shows that Coltrane was already known as "Trane" by this point, and that the music from some 1946 recording sessions had been played for Miles Davis — possibly impressing the latter.
John Coltrane went to Penn Griffin School for the Arts in High Point, NC.
An important moment in the progression of Coltrane's musical development occurred on June 5th, 1945, when he saw Charlie Parker perform for the first time. In "Coltrane on Coltrane" he recounted: "the first time I heard Bird play, it hit me right between the eyes." Parker became an early idol of his, and they played together on occasion in the late 1940s.
Although there are recordings of Coltrane from as early as 1945, his peers at the time did not recognize 'genius' in the young musician, though he was a member of groups led by Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Bostic and Johnny Hodges in the early- to mid-1950s.
His main career spanned the twelve years between 1955 and 1967, during which time he reshaped modern jazz and influenced generations of other musicians.
Coltrane died from liver cancer at Huntington Hospital in Long Island, NY on July 17, 1967, at the age of 40.