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coltrane firsthand

John Coltrane Quartet. ‘Jazz Temple’ Cleveland OH September 1963

I don't have any specific musical remembrances of that performance. I do remember "My Favorite Things" being played. I can however supply a little color.

The Jazz Temple was a club situated in a triangular lot where Mayfield road branches off of Euclid avenue around the University Circle area of Cleveland, Ohio, near the Art Museum, Case Institute of Technology &Western Reserve University (since merged), Severance Hall (home of the Cleveland Orchestra), and bordering on Little Italy. About a half mile west is E105th street, home of many jazz bars in earlier years. The first jazz performance I ever attended was a couple of month's earlier at the same location, which featured Cannonball's sextet (with Yusef and Zawinul), and Dizzy's quintet (with Moody and Kenny Barron) featuring guest Milt Jackson, so I had a pretty great introduction to live jazz.

I hadn't been listening to Trane very long, having heard MFT on the radio, and having purchased "Some Day My Prince Will Come" and "Coltrane Plays The Blues", both of which I liked, but which were recorded a few years earlier. I wasn't even aware, until reading Porter's book, that Trane had played this same club the previous spring. I was not yet sixteen, and few of my friends were into jazz, but I found one to go with me, and convinced my parents to allow me to go out on a holiday (I think it was Rosh Hashanah, it might have been Yom Kippur, but hey this was the Jazz "Temple").

It wasn't the first night of the gig, because Elvin was there (I remember reading the review of the opening night in the Plain Dealer, it mentioning Elvin's absence). We sat right in front of the stage. The club was full but not packed. The music was a bit different from what I had heard on the records, and from the first note I was hooked. I sat there transfixed (a cliché word, but it fits) for the four or five sets they played, a couple of hours past the time my friend, who enjoyed the music, left. Everybody around me was smiling. I guess you could say that night changed my life, though the change was only that I became a Trane fanatic. The club never was able to get a liqour license, and burned down a few month's later.

A lot of people knock Eric Nisenson's "Ascension:John Coltrane And His Quest" for lack of academic zeal, but I love it, for his remembrances of seeing Trane mirror my experiences, and bring back the thrill of those times. I would recommend that book to anyone wanting to get a feel for what it was like to be an up close listener.

--Jack Lefton

Notes and Comments


Porter, Lewis. John Coltrane. Chronology, p. 370. "Possibly September. Cleveland. Jazz Temple. Local drummer "jacktown" filled in for Elvin Jones on the opening night (DB, Nov. 7). (Note that the drummer's actual name was Jack Town, DB 12/5/63 p. 44)

Discography: No recordings are known.

Published Reviews:

None are currently known, although note Jack's comment regarding a review in the Cleveland Plain Dealer

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