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Happy 96th birthday John Coltrane

Discussion in 'music' started by sideshowbob, Sep 23, 2022 at 10:23 PM.

  1. sideshowbob

    sideshowbob Champagne fascia aficionado

    It's the man's birthday today. Let's have a thread to remind ourselves about his greatness.

    When did you first hear him? What did you make of it?

    I remember listening to Giant Steps in 1983 or 1984. I was about 19. Into post punk and industrial noise. I didn't understand jazz at all really, although I thought I probably should. I had a Charlie Parker compilation I pretended to like, but I didn't really have a clue. One day I went to Red Rhino in York, where I was a student, and bought two albums: Cecil Taylor's Air Above Mountains, and Trane's Giant Steps. Cecil's record made complete sense to me immediately, Trane a bit less so. It felt worthy somehow, like it was good for you, whereas I could tell Cecil was a gigantic feck-you to tradition, and that instantly appealed to the punk in me.

    Fast forward a few years. 1992 I think. I'm living in the centre of London, a short walk from Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus. I wake up with a hangover one Saturday morning. Walk to Tower, as I often did. Something calls me upstairs to the jazz floor, somewhere I'd never been. I buy a Coltrane album. Pretty much at random, since I know almost nothing about jazz apart from Cecil Taylor and have only ever heard Giant Steps by Trane. The album is Impressions.

    I play it that afternoon. I play nothing else for a week, I listen to it constantly. The next week I buy Interstellar Space.

    Within a month I own almost every Trane album. Within a couple of years jazz has become an obsession. Interstellar Space is still my favourite record of all time.

    Edit: The Esteemed Leader, Tony L, has had a copy of Cecil Taylor's Air Above Mountains for sale for months. Someone should buy it, it's one of CT's best solo recordings. I still play the copy I bought in 1983 all the time.
    kjb, Big Tabs, paulfromcamden and 3 others like this.
  2. poco a poco

    poco a poco I'm Jim

    Same record Giant Steps and I was about the same age, but in 1966 or 67. I was still living at home and I had just bought my first HiFi system including a Garrard SP25 MKIi turntable. I had been listening to quite a bit of mainly British Modern Jazz in pubs around London and also on the radio. I knew Coltrane’s name as well as some other American Jazz artists, but didn’t have many records. My mother only had an old 78’s only radiogram.

    I was Dobell’s in Charring Cross road browsing and they were playing Naima from Giant Steps so I bought a secondhand 1961 Mono US pressing they had for very little money, less than £2? that I still have. A few weeks later I bought A Love Supreme. I didn’t have a problem listening to either, but it took me much longer to appreciate the later Cecil Taylor stuff. Longer than The Spontaneous Music Ensemble, Derick Bailey, Evan Parker and Jamie Muir etc. but probably because I saw some of that live.
    sideshowbob likes this.
  3. Marchbanks

    Marchbanks Hat and Beard member

    Probably 1971, as I was still reading Melody Maker rather than NME. I knew nothing of the stuff being written about in the Jazz section, but Richard Williams’ prose and Val Wilmer’s photos drew me in further every week. So at the age of 15 I began borrowing Coltrane and Ornette records from the local library. I think A Love Supreme may have been the first. I got it fairly quickly - Ornette took a lot longer. I bought Giant Steps a few weeks later and remember thinking it was a little staid in comparison. Soon after that Richard told me I had to buy Live In Seattle. A step too far at 15! After five minutes I was hiding behind a chair shaking with fright. It’s been hidden in a cupboard ever since. Having loved the recently released live ALS recorded around the same time, I think I might be about ready for it now.
    sideshowbob and poco a poco like this.
  4. paulfromcamden

    paulfromcamden Baffled

    I first heard Coltrane as a teenager on a late night C4 thing. I remember thinking that his playing vaguely reminded me of Sonic Youth - who I was already completely obsessed with. Not sure I'd make the comparison now but I guess they were both doing something beyond just a straight rendition of the tune, both improvising, which was something new to me.

    I picked up a cheap compilation CD in Camden Market of tracks from the Konserthuset dates and listened to that for a bit over the next few years trying to figure it out but that was about it. Jazz was unheard of amongst my peers and I was too busy obsessing over guitar bands, then electronic music.

    It was only in my thirties that I started listening to jazz, which has subsequently become about 90% of my home listening. I always was a bit of a late starter : )
    sideshowbob likes this.
  5. poco a poco

    poco a poco I'm Jim

    A copy of Ascension that a friend loaned me did that for me a year or so later. It is still something I don’t play very often.
  6. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    The introduction for me was certainly via Miles Davis, KOB, Someday My Prince Will come etc. That would have been the mid to late-80s. From there to ALS, but I moved slowly through Coltrane compared to other jazz artists. I’m largely an opportunistic record buyer so if I don’t see a nice copy at the right price I don’t buy, and there just wasn’t a lot of Coltrane around. The first ‘out there’ Coltrane I bought was Meditations on CD back in the late ‘90s, and I struggled to even get though even the first few minutes. It sounds entirely normal now, and I’ve found much to like in his later period e.g. Interstellar Space, Om, Ascension etc. I also headed back the other way through the Atlantic and Prestige stuff (I’m complete on both via box sets). I still have some gaps in the Impulse catalogue, but I’ve got the vast majority of it. Coltrane has ended up very a important part of my collection and was certainly my gateway into free jazz, at least as far as I’ve managed to get with it. I still find a lot of post-Coltrane free stuff not to be something I’m interested in, but with the Coltrane, Sanders, Alice Coltrane etc trajectory into spiritual jazz there was something remarkably unpretentious, real and honest about it that connects with me. None of it was an academic experiment or a cul-de-sac.
  7. kjb

    kjb Losing my edge

    Mine started in '79 when I was working in the record department in Welwyn Department store during my year off before Uni. I used to go upstairs with the section manager for a recreational smoke (he lived in a flat above the store). My main listening at the time was very NME influenced indie/ new wave but also funk and guitar based music like The Allman Brothers and Television. In some ways I think that sort of improvisation or extended soloing allowed me to get Coltrane quite quickly.

    A copy of Contranology Volume 1 came in and I remember someone who'd also bought a Siouxsie and The Banshee's record asking to hear a bit. As someone was using the only set of headphones I played it in the store. The opening track was a version of My Favourite Things live in Stockholm with Eric Dolphy. They didn't buy it - I did and that began the journey. Before that jazz had been my dad's Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson records which I came to love many years later.

    That version of My Favourite Things is still a desert Island disc for me.

    This coincided with a period where the NME began to have some good writing about jazz (especially by Angus MacKinnnon and Richard Cook) which guided my curiosity and within a year or so I'd got records by Mingus, Ornette, Sun Ra, Miles, Cecil Taylor and others as well as a pile of Coltrane records.

    I seem to remember there were quite a few Coltrane deletions or excess stock in bargain bins - I picked up Om, Kule Se Mama and others for just a few £s - and others on various specialist budget labels like Jasmine and Affinity - Africa Brass, Live at Birdland, Meditations.

    I still love that period when he played with Dolphy. They seemed to bring something out in each other's playing that was very special.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2022 at 5:51 PM
  8. Big Tabs

    Big Tabs looking backwards, going forwards

    Purchased ‘Blue Train’ U.S. 1993 Direct Metal Mastered release on a whim from Selectadisc in Nottm. Probably 1994

    I was hanging out with The Shod Collective in Nottingham. Strange times indeed…
  9. Aural

    Aural Once hornucopia.Now lying flat.

    Got me looking! Still alive?
    Ah, died in 67!
  10. herb

    herb music live

    1967 a schoolmate told me he had died. On my next visit to WHSmith I saw his last LP Expression - so bought it just on his reputation. My Jazz collection then was only Mingus Dynasty, Jack Teagarden, Bird and the famous black and white Monk 'best of'.

    At first I thought Expression was a bit odd and gloomy, especially the track To Be. Within two plays I had 'got it' and it still sounds fresh to this day. I now have most of the late CDs and particularly like Stellar Regions. Both of these albums feature Alice on piano.

    Things like Meditations and the live performances get played when I am in the mood. I also like the 2 live CDs with the Miles band and the French crowd booing and whistling when Trane gets carried away. He was experimenting.

    To me Coltrane was a genius like Beefheart, Stockhausen, Schoenberg, Bach etc
    sideshowbob likes this.
  11. davidsrsb

    davidsrsb pfm Member

    In the normal run of things, I would have expected to have lost him early this century, showing just how young he was when he died
  12. CTank

    CTank pfm Member

    Like many I suspect, I came to Trane via Kind of Blue.

    Tower Records on Piccadilly then supplied me with vinyl copies of Crescent and ALS, around 97-98. I willed myself to listen to ALS until it clicked. During this prolonged process, something spiritual or religious switched on in my brain. It’s fair to say it was life changing for me.

    During the first lockdown I again binged, listening to the four versions of India over and over again. There are never ending depths to his music.

    I now have ‘most’ of his albums as leader, on Vinyl and CD. The later stuff (post Ascension) hasn’t clicked yet. But I’ll still keep trying, and being rewarded for it.

    My middle son’s middle name is Coltrane.
    sideshowbob likes this.

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