Jazz Musician. Legendary and acclaimed jazz saxophone player, composer and a major figure in the evolution of the jazz styles known as bebop and free jazz. Along with saxophonist Charlie Parker, Coltrane is considered one of the most influential saxophonist in the history of jazz music. As an artist, he was always searching and seeking to take his music further in what he quite consciously viewed as a spiritual quest. Coltrane inspired many to play the soprano saxophone, an instrument rarely used in jazz until he began playing it. John William Coltrane was born in Hamlet, North Carolina in September of 1926 and grew up in nearby High Point. He was raised in the atmosphere of the Southern church, with a wealth of gospel music. He began playing the clarinet in a community band at the age of 13 and later switched to the alto saxophone during his final year of high school. After graduating in 1943, he and some friends moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Coltrane found a job in a sugar refinery and begin studying the saxophone at the Ornstein School of Music and Granoff Studies. In 1945 he was drafted into the U. S. Navy, eventually serving most of his two-year term with a Navy band stationed in Hawaii. After his return to Philadelphia, Coltrane began playing professionally in local bands. In 1947 he switched to the tenor saxophone and toured with alto saxophonist Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson. When he worked for trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie from 1949-1951, Coltrane played both alto and tenor saxophones. In 1953 he joined the band of saxophonist Johnny Hodges. Coltrane later joined the group of trumpeter Miles Davis in 1955, beginning an important phase of his career. During the two periods he spent with Davis (1955-1957 and 1958-1960) Coltrane gained an international reputation as a tenor saxophonist. The 1950s saw the release of a number of Coletrane's records, some of which he dedicated to his first wife Naima Gibbs, whom he married in 1955. During the 1950s, drug and alcohol dependence, together with emotional difficulties soon disrupted Coltrane's career, but later broke from these addictions and embraced religion. In 1960 Coltrane formed his own quartet with McCoy Tyner on piano, Elvin Jones on drums and Jimmy Garrison on bass. This group was expanded on some recordings to include eleven men as well as pianist Alice McCleod, who became Coltrane's second wife in 1965. During the 1960s he scored a popular success with "My Favorite Things" (1963). Some of Coltrane's music in the 1960s was so dense and complex that it seemed almost chaotic. He was famous for playing very long solos-up to 20 minutes or more-with and intensity that few others could match. A deeply religious man, Coltrane recorded several albums of his re! ligious compositions, the most famous being "A Love Supreme" (1964). Unfortunately, Coltrane was not to be a living jazz artist for much longer, for he was diagnosed with liver cancer in the mid 1960s. Even though racked with pain, he continued to perform and to experiment. John Coltrane died at Huntington Hospital in the Town of Huntington, Suffolk County, Long Island, New York on July 17, 1967 at age 40, leaving 37 albums in print. Years after his death, the National Academy of the Recording Arts and Sciences honored Coltrane's memory with a 1981 Grammy Award and later with a lifetime achievement award in 1992. He also was honored in 1990s with a commemorative stamp issued by the United States Postal Service. John Coltrane's influence on jazz contemporary, classical and rock music has and continues to be critically acclaimed throughout the world.
Bio by: Curtis Jackson