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Jazz Street: John Coltrane

posted March 12, 2015, 11:20 am by Nathaniel Lathy | Filed Under Jazz Street, Throwback Thursday | comment Leave a Comment

coltraneJohn Coltrane played the saxophone with a passion, beauty and innovation seldom seen in the  history of popular music. He played with some of the greatest bandleaders: Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington.

Coltrane participated in other artists landmark albums, and he recorded  many of his own. It was an amazing run up to the end. I own the last album he recorded, Interstellar Space. He recorded the album with Rashied Ali, who played drums. It’s an example of how  good free jazz can be. Admittedly, free jazz isn’t always good. Coltrane played a lot of be-bop. But he could perform music, which appealed to big band and swing tastes, as well.  Coltrane wasn’t interested in appealing to rock audiences. But rock fans can enjoy the brilliance of his playing and the innovation. The progressive rock of the  1970s owes a debt to the playing of Coltrane. Also the good fusion albums of the early 1970s tried to build on what Coltrane accomplished. The opportunity is still there for people to discover Coltrane. The rest of us can enjoy revisiting his works. One Down, One Up Live at the Half Note is another memorable album. He’s backed by a great band, and the playing is excellent even if the production comes off as a little rough around the edges. Albums with versions of “My Favorite Things” are always welcome.

Coltrane took a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic and took it in a different direction. Anyone looking for different takes on the standards can find a home with Coltrane’s  playing. It’s fun to debate who is the best jazz artist of all time. My favorite is Louis Armstrong. From the be-bop period, I favor Thelonious Monk. One bonus of Monk is Coltrane plays on his recordings. Just like an advantage of listening to Armstrong recordings is Ella Fitzgerald singing on them. Maybe this is one case not to worry about the back and forth arguments and just enjoy the playing. And there’s some great singing on some of Coltrane’s recordings too, which leads to another article. He died in 1967 at the age of 40. Fortunately despite his too early passing,  his music lives on.


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