john coltrane, humility and purpose -- 1/19/17

Today's encore excerpt - from A Love Supreme by Ashley Kahn. The humility and sense of purpose of jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. In the mid-1960s, Coltrane had already become a legend. He was experiencing extraordinary commercial success along with the the industry's highest accolades and adulation. A birthday lagniappe to you on my birthday:

"The [Coltrane Quartet] developed a reputation for being one of the hardest-working outfits on the road ... [and] during tours in late 1962 and '63, Europe embraced the quartet as conquering heroes. ... As accolades poured down and album sales stayed up, however, Coltrane remained humble, musically centered, spiritually focused. ... 

"[Close friend] Cecelia Foster ... tells of the saxophonist's reaction to his listeners' praise:

'Whenever I'd say to John -- me trying to be hip -- 'Boy! John, you really burned on that last set!' he'd look at me for a long time and say, 'What do you mean by that? What did you hear that was different?' ... When I couldn't explain, he would say, 'Don't be like so many people we know. If you can't explain what the difference was that you heard, what impressed you, just don't say anything.' He was really quite a teacher, as far as I was concerned. He taught me how to listen to jazz, what to listen for, how to be humble and not frontin' on the music.' ...

John Coltrane, 1966

"[Coltrane contemporary and jazz musician Dave] Liebman expands the thought: 'What stays with me about the Coltrane Quartet is an image of them getting up on the bandstand ... completely burning for two hours without a word to anybody, getting off the stage and sitting down like any other person. Not having an entourage around them or anything. Then doing it again with unpretentiousness, absolute honesty and matter-of-factness. ... I still try to live up to that image: to do your work, to do it intensely, with conviction, and be honest with the music."


Ashley Kahn


A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album


Penguin Books


Copyright Ashley Kahn 2002


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