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Organized chaos—the genius of John Coltrane

John Coltrane
John Coltrane
public domain


The hand that fate dealt to John Coltrane was one that would keep most people from accomplishing anything at all. Despite having to raise his mother, a cousin, and heroin addiction, John Coltrane went on to become a towering figure in Jazz.


John Coltrane, called Trane for short, pioneered the soprano saxophone at a time when it was all but dead in Jazz. John went on to play the sax as no one has ever played it before, establishing a new style of Jazz that still rings with newness and originality to this day.


Coltrane’s sax sounds like noise at first, but then you hear his genius. The style of most Coltrane songs, their harmony, and their melody changes throughout the tune. Few sax players can master Coltrane’s unique style, and fewer still even try. Just when the song seems to have a mathematical precision, it becomes chaos bordering on noise, and then flashes with brilliance. The changes, known as Coltrane Changes, happen so fast and so often that they are hard to measure let alone classify.


John Coltrane only lived forty year, having put out more albums than many musicians who play well into their sixties. He worked with other Jazz legends including Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. The Pulitzer Board gave him a posthumous Special Citation in 2007 for masterful improvisation. His son Ravi Coltrane is active in Jazz to this day. John Coltrane’s office web site is: http://www.johncoltrane.com/

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