Appreciating all that makes America special

Music: John Coltrane

Those who play jazz inevitably point to the man they call Trane as influencing and inspiring their music. Uploaded by

When driving through North Carolina on the way to Myrtle Beach, we pass through a little hamlet called – well, Hamlet. It has one claim to fame, and it’s not the great chicken plant fire of 1991. It’s the birthplace of one of the giants of American jazz, John Coltrane.

The man called “Trane” said that one of his greatest moments was the first time he heard Charlie Parker play. “The first time I heard Bird play, it hit me right between the eyes,” he said. That was in 1945, just about the time Coltrane began to record.

Uploaded to Flickr by vanveen1967.

During most of his early career, he was a sideman to such jazz stalwarts as Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Thelonious Monk. He released his first album of his own compositions, Giant Steps, in 1960, and it featured complex harmonic structures and chord progressions unheard before that time. These became known as “Coltrane changes.”

Coltrane gravitated toward more experimental and avant-garde and free form jazz during his later career, and I’ll admit I’m not a fan of that style. What’s undeniable is that he has influenced a whole generation of jazz musicians. He’s in the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame and was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. All in all, not bad for a kid from Hamlet.


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  1. There also are some folks in High Point who are proud to have gone to school with him there. Thanks for sharing. Learning about the lives of great people helps us figure out how we can leave our own mark on the world.

  2. I’m 57 and started playing tenor when I was 12. I got a Coltrane record out of a 99 cent cut out bin when I was about 14 and the music reached out a grabbed me. I listened to everything I could find for years and practiced by butt off.

    The only people that I ever came across that knew his music were musicians. It is amazing to me that through the evolution of recording, radio, the music business, that anyone even remembered or paid attention to this stuff.
    But, the music has stood the test of time. It is being rediscovered.

    I have had a horn in my mouth everyday for as long as I can remember. I can’t begin to tell you how much Trane accomplished in his relatively short life. I got to meet, sit and talk with McCoy Tyner a year ago. Two more different people in the world, we are united by the impact that John Coltrane had on our lives.

    Trane’s compositional legacy will stay with us and it is obviously impressive, but until you pick up a horn and spend some time working the mechanism you can’t grasp what a genius he was and how much effort and dedication it took to be able to express the things he felt.

    With the exception of Sonny Rollins, I don’t think anybody ever did or will play that much saxophone. Two years ago I got to meet and talk with Sonny. He was influenced by Trane and Sonny said to me, “Man, I got to practice every day.”

    McCoy and Sonny are two of the most spiritually high people I have ever met. Through Trane’s music I get a glimpse of what a special cat he must have been. A teacher of the highest order, I still learn new things through working his tunes out.

    Bright Moments…

    • Thanks for this wonderful comment, it was much better than my original post!