John Coltrane, 1926 – 1967
“Trane” almost singlehandedly brought the soprano saxophone out of near obscurity. He was the temporal and spiritual leader of the jazz avant-garde of the 60’s known as Free Jazz and The New Thing. He is still regarded with almost religious devotion by musicians and fans. Scores of sax players came under his influence and carved out careers of their own. Numerous musicians on all instruments, if not imitating Coltrane directly, emulated him in his deep, personal search for a unique sound.
Quiet and unassuming, his personality was somewhat the opposite of his often fierce, wailing performances. Between 50-60 minute sets, the band would run out for a smoke or drink. Coltrane usually stayed behind…practicing!
He had garbage bags full of saxophone mouthpieces which he perpetually sanded and filed in an effort to discover new sounds. To list the tunes which have become jazz standards, the records which have achieved iconic status, or the musicians who point to him as an inspiration would require more space than is available here.
Photograph by Roger Kallins. Courtesy of Patricia Darlington.