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John Coltrane (1926-67) was the most relentlessly exploratory musician in jazz history. He was always seeking to take his music further in what he quite consciously viewed as a spiritual quest. A native of North Carolina who later moved to Philadelphia, Coltrane joined the Miles Davis quintet in 1955, after years in the big band and combo of Dizzy Gillespie (where he played alto before switching to tenor). Coltrane's anguished tone and multi-noted, rhythmically complex solos with Davis quickly elevated him to the front ranks of jazz. Many classic recordings of the Davis-Coltrane partnership remain at the top of the all-time-greatest Jazz albums. Most notably the series recorded for Prestige in the mid-50s: Cookin', Relaxin', Steamin' and Workin' with the Miles Davis Quintet. His position was quickly solidified when Miles Davis moved on, leaving Coltrane with the luxury of 2 of Davis' rhythm section pianist Red Garland, and Paul Cambers (bass). With Arthur Taylor on drums and occasional support from Donald Byrd on trumpet, this quartet moved on to record another highly acclaimed series of albums for Prestige. As a sideman, Coltrane spent a brief yet invaluable stay with Thelonious Monk in 1957; after which he recorded his only Blue Note album "Blue Train" featuring a young Curtis Fuller and an even younger Lee Morgan. He then returned to Davis as a featured soloist for the rest of the decade. It was during this period that the classic album "Kind of Blue" was recorded.

The incredible technical and harmonic content of his playing at the time led to a style, described as "sheets of sound".
He organized his first quartet in 1960. This group, which featured pianist McCoy Tyner; drummer Elvin Jones, and, ultimately, bassist Jimmy Garrison, became one of the seminal jazz bands, playing with incredible energy and providing a forum for Coltrane's growth as a composer: The Coltrane quartet, often expanded to include Eric Dolphy (for much of 1961), proved extremely popular without abandoning its exploratory edge, and by 1965 was the premier group in jazz. It was this group that recorded the classic
A Love Supreme in 1964. By the summer of '65 Coltrane had opened up his rhythmic and textural vocabulary even further by incorporating younger avant-garde players into his music. Pharoah Sanders joined the band as a permanent second saxophonist; Rashied Ali and Coltrane's wife Alice replaced Jones and Tyner; respectively; and his music entered yet another phase that generated debate regarding whether Coltrane had not once again gone too far: This final phase, while indeed filled with cataclysmic sounds, also contained music of a new and promising lyricism. He died of a liver disease in 1967.


  Recommended recordings:
A Love Supreme Impulse
A Love Supreme
Blue Train Blue Note
Blue Trane: John Coltrane Plays the Blues
Lush Life [remaster] Prestige
Lush Life
Soultrane OJC 021-2
Prestige 50th Anniversary: Soultrane
Coltrane OJC 20-2
Standard Coltrane  OJC 681-2
Standard Coltrane
Traneing in  OJC 189-2
Traneing In
Settin' the Pace OJC 78-2
Settin' the Pace
Black Pearls OJC 352-2
Original Jazz Classics: Black Pearls
The last Trane OJC 394-2
The Last Trane
Bahia OJC 415-2
The Paris Concert OJC 781-2
Paris Concert
Bye Bye Blackbird OJC 246-2
Giant Steps Atlantic 1311
Ballads Impulse
Standard Coltrane Analogue Productions
Sheets of Sound Recall Records
My favorite Things Atlantic 1361
Some of the Best Contemporary Tenor Saxophonists
Wayne Shorter
Pharoah Sanders
John Zorn
Charles Lloyd
Chico Freeman