The saxophonist continues to be an essential reference in the jazz world today, more than 50 years later.
Thursday, October 17, 2019
Ana Miralles.- The influence of John Coltrane, died on July 17, 1967, it is not only limited to musicians or fans, but also reaches areas as little related to music as religion. Just access the DVD Trane Tracks. The Legacy of John Coltrane (Eforfilms), in which the first interviewee is Bishop Franzo Wayne King, of the St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church in San Francisco.
In fact, his parents, although dedicated to other professions, had an interest in music: his mother had attended higher education and sang and played the piano, while his father played the violin, ukulele and possibly the clarinet. But both of his grandparents were priests, which caused him to grow up in an environment where song who played their parents joined the Religious music, the country-blues of the street musicians and the swing of the jazz of radio broadcasts that without much ease they managed to capture on the receiver they had at home.
To enter the world of Coltrane it is convenient to start by listening to its double ballads collection, unfailing wonders edited in Impulse. And his version, with Hartman, of the standard My one and only love it achieves something as difficult as making us doubt if it is not better than the 1954 classic that Ben Webster and Art Tatum signed. In this regard, “the first two minutes are the best demonstration that Coltrane’s powerful tenor saxophone could be not only torrential and spiritual, but also deeply delicate and exquisite,” Luis Pardo commented a few days ago on the cultural portal hoyesarte.com.
In 1939 he began to play the clarinet. The following year it changes to alto saxo, at the same time that he sings in some school groups. In 1939 his father died of stomach cancer. His mother moved to New Jersey and Coltrane remained in High Point, North Carolina, in the first school for blacks, until in 1943 he graduated and moved to Philadelphia, where he found work in a factory. Starting in 1944 and for a year, Coltrane received saxophone lessons and music theory classes. In the beginning he had been an admirer of Lester Young and Johnny Hodges, until on June 5, 1945 he saw the trumpeter perform. Dizzy Gillespie next to the saxophonist Charlie Parker, “Bird”. From that moment Bird will be his new idol.
In September 1955 he began to work for Miles Davis. Perhaps reinforced by that security, on October 3 he marries Juanita “Naima” Austin, a single mother with a daughter named Syeeda. Both will be honored in the respective compositions of the saxophonist: the first will become one of his most beautiful and famous ballads, «Naima», while to the second he will dedicate “Syeeda’s Song Flute”.
For Brown, «Naima it has the hypnotic sweetness of all those classic songs but at the same time it is something else ». It was composed by Coltrane just fifty years ago. It was the sixth of the seven themes of Giant Steps, Major work written by Coltrane when he was still part of the Miles Davis quintet. It belongs to its first stage but, as the jazz historian Ted Gioia says, it treasures a certain mystical mark, enough to make it one of the few pieces from his initial repertoire that he never stopped performing in new versions live and in the studio. In fact a few days ago we discovered another one: Naima open the last lost Coltrane record, Blue World, a session of barely half an hour that the genius prepared for the soundtrack of a movie and which was hardly used afterwards.
On Naima “It does not flaunt its complexity and impresses more for its placidity and beauty than for the demands it places on musicians”. Placidity and beauty that seduce the first time. East (Giant Steps) It will be the first of the 10 albums originally released in Atlantic, which recorded in just over two years are compiled (along with a good amount of additional material) in the box of 7 CDs. The Heavyweight Champion (Atlantic/Rhino).
But his great commercial success came in March 1961 with “My Favourite Things”, the title track of his third album on this label. Such was his impact that this composition would accompany him throughout the rest of his career (showing his stylistic evolution) and caused more than 50,000 copies of the LP of the same name to be sold in its first year, a figure within the reach of very few artists in the world of music. jazz. Coltrane modally developed a simple waltz from the musical The Sound Of Music. In 1965 this work would be transformed into the famous and syrupy movie Smiles and tears (nominated in ten categories and winner of five Hollywood Oscars), which recounted the adventures of the Trapp family in Nazi Austria of World War II with a singing song Julie Andrews in the role of a rebellious novice.
Also from 1961 (November), are the recordings in the Village Vanguard of New York that are compiled in the quadruple CD The Complete Village Vanguard (Impulse!). In addition to songs with his classical quartet and with Dolphy, there are instruments as unusual in jazz as the old (instrument of Arabic origin whose Hispanic version is the lute), the oboe or the contrabassoon. It also collects exotic-inspired themes. The most famous of them (of which four versions with three different formations are collected) is entitled “India”: It was based on Vedic chants and served as the basis for The Byrds to compose their great success “Eight Miles High”. Sample of his musical research, “Spiritual” is based on the melody of “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen” of Book Of American Negro Spirituals de Weldon Johnson.
And so we come to the three jewels in the saxophonist’s career. The first of them, entitled Ballads, it served to show that Coltrane was a musician who went far beyond the enraged tenor sax that he was to much of the music press. On this recording he was able to get new nuances from old standards and songs from a repertoire of popular stars like Frank Sinatra. It is said that the own Sinatra after listening to the version of “Nancy (With The Laughing Face)” He showed his interest in hiring Coltrane to play live with him.
The second of the discs, John Coltrane And Johnny Hartman, is the only time John Coltrane recorded a title record with a vocalist. Hartman He was a rather unknown American singer, living in the United Kingdom. His participation in this album working on another handful of standards (except “Lush Life” none of the themes was habitual in the repertoire of the Trane quartet) served to relaunch his career and achieve a high degree of popularity.
The third of the discs is his encounter with the great Duke Ellington. This recording exudes the respect that both musicians had for each other. Coltrane will prove it with his wonderful version of “In A Sentimental Mood”, a classic among the classics of the duke’s repertoire. Ellington will premiere in that session “Take The Coltrane” (in reference to his theme “Take The A-Train”) where he shows his predisposition to immerse himself in the universe coltraneano.
In short, we immediately associate Coltrane with energetic pieces, chord progressions that seem to have no end or spiritual sounds marked by the conversion to the mysticism of his last stage. We tend to remember much less, instead, his facet as a balladeer despite the fact that two of his best works are Ballads and his work in half with singer Johnny Hartman; both are from 1963 and both are beautifully wrapped by McCoy Tyner’s piano, Jimmy Garrison’s double bass, and Elvin Jones’ drums. “They are great jazz records and at the same time they are the kind of jazz records that those who do not frequent or enjoy the genre can like,” Pardo points out.