thelonious monk

John Coltrane: An Appreciation

By Harvey Kubernik c 2017

John Coltrane (c)Esmond Edwards/CTSIMAGES

Saxophonist John Coltrane died on July 17, 1967 in Huntington Hospital in Huntington, New York in Long Island after a brief bout with liver cancer.

“Mourned by as many rock musicians as those from the jazz world, he was a courtly, soft-spoken gentleman from North Carolina, who pursued the roiling, labyrinthine currents of improvisation, from the postwar abandonment of big-band swing in favor of the fractious sounds of bebop and beyond,” observed keyboardist and author Kenneth Kubernik.

“In each step of his evolution, beginning with Dizzy Gillespie’s orchestra, through his tenure with Miles Davis and his own stentorian ‘classic quartet,’ Coltrane revised and refined his ‘voice,’ a burnished, muscular tenor, liquidly velvet on ballads, coruscating on up-tempo numbers.

“Coltrane recognized that music’s capacity for astonishment, for both the performer and the alert listener, was much more than diligent practice—his fearsome virtuosity would often lead him into thickets of stifling verbosity, as off-putting as an electric guitar’s noxious feedback. The sounds he heard in his head—the quest for pure intent—compelled him to eschew the Great American Songbook, that litany of Broadway standards that were long the heart and soul of jazz, for an unforgiving ascent into cacophony.” Continue reading