Verve Impulse Reissue Series
Coltrane Meets Cruise
Index To Previous Coltrane News Articles
Alice Coltrane Passes . . .
Swamini Turiyasangitananda Alice McLeod Coltrane has died. Widow of jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, pianist in his last group, composer, author and spiritual leader, she died Friday, January 12, 2007 at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center in West Hills (Los Angeles). She had been in frail health for some time and died of respiratory failure, according to an assistant.
Ms. Coltrane was a longtime resident of Woodland Hills, California, an area of northeast Los Angeles, near the Sai Anantam ashram in Agoura Hills, which she founded in 1983. Swamini Turiyasangitananda is Sanskrit for “the highest Song of God”, a title indicative of her central role in the 48-acre ashram in the Santa Monica Hills. She also served as the swami of the area’s first Hindu temple, in Chatsworth. She was also the manager of her late husband John Coltrane’s estate, including the enormous catalogue of recordings, his music publishing company (Jowcol Music) and the John Coltrane Foundation, a source of scholarships for music students since 2001.
She was born Alice McLeod in Detroit (August 27, 1937), into a family with strong ties to music. Her mother Anna sang and played piano in church, and a half-brother, Ernie Farrow, was active in Detroit’s jazz scene, working with saxophonist Yusef Lateef and vibraphonist Terry Gibbs. Ms. Coltrane studied classical piano and played in church from age 7, later playing around Detroit in groups with Farrow, trombonist George Bohannon and others.In the late 1950’s she lived for a time in Paris, studying informally with pianist Bud Powell. She was married briefly to singer Kenny (Pancho) Hagood, with whom she had a daughter, Michelle. She returned to Detroit, working in a band with her brother, before moving to New York around 1962.
In New York she began working with the Terry Gibbs Quartet, and it was through Gibbs that she met John Coltrane, whose quartet shared a double-bill at Birdland in the city in July 1963. She soon moved in with Coltrane, traveling with the band on the road, and relocating to his final home in Dix Hills on Long Island in 1964. They married in October 1965, in Juarez Mexico, at the end of a West Coast tour, co-incident with finalization of Coltrane’s divorce from his first wife Naima (Juanita) Grubbs. By then two of their three children had been born—John Jr., who became a bassist but who died in an automobile accident in 1982, and Ravi, now in his forties and a well-known jazz saxophonist in his own right.
Ms. Coltrane joined the Quartet in early 1966, replacing pianist McCoy Tyner. Coltrane’s music was becoming more heavily percussion-based and denser, and Tyner has said that he was having difficulty hearing himself in the mix. Although perhaps not Tyner’s equal in strength ad speed, Ms. Coltrane quickly found a style that complemented the polyrhythmic ambiguities and thicker, multilayered textures of her husband’s developing approach. She continued to perform and record with the group until Coltrane’s death in July 1967.
Not surprisingly, Coltrane had an enormous impact on his wife’s music and on her spiritual development. “John not only taught me how to explore, but to play thoroughly and completely”, she told Pauline Revelli (The Black Giants)—a reference not only to the expansion of harmony and rhythm that characterizes “late Coltrane” but also to an overall push to give his music universality. With her husband’s assistance Ms. Coltrane won a contract as a soloist with Impulse, the label indelibly associated with his name. And he shared his deep interest in Eastern Philosophy and religion, which became a prime focus of her later life.
Her first recordings after Coltrane’s death naturally hewed closely to the approach of the last quartet. Albums like A Monastic Trio, Ptah the El Daoud , and Journey in Satchidananda featured her piano and harp with such former Coltrane sidemen as Rashied Ali, Jimmy Garrison and Pharoah Sanders, and her original compositions. A Monastic Trio even included one piano solo (released as “Altruvista”) from a March 1967 Coltrane session. 1972’s Universal Consciousness showcased her on organ, with strings arranged by Ornette Coleman.
In the late seventies Ms. Coltrane switched labels, recording four albums for Warner Brothers before restricting her output to privately-produced religious works. She returned to jazz with her last recording, 2004’s Translinear Light. She also performed infrequently with son Ravi. Her last public appearance was a November 2006 concert in San Francisco where she was joined by her son Ravi, Charlie Haden and Roy Haynes.
Ms. Coltrane traveled to India to study with Swami Satchidandanda in the early 1970’s, and later studied with Sathya Sai Baba. She founded an ashram, the Vedanta Center, in San Francisco, later moving it to Woodland Hills. She also authored several books, including “Monumental Ethernal” (a spiritual biography) and “Endless Wisdom”.
Beside her son Ravi, she is survived by a younger son, Oran, a guitarist and alto saxophonist, daughter Michelle, a singer; two sisters and five grandchildren.
Half A Note . . .
As in "Half a Note is Better Than No Note At All", to mangle an old saying. We're referring to the impending release on the Impulse label of material from the spring 1965 Half Note broadcasts, which captured the classic quartet live, in all its post-A Love Supreme glory. The material has been available in various forms for 20 - 30 years, so most aficionados know that there were four broadcasts, corresponding to the four weeks the group was in residence at the New York club. And there was speculation that the Impulse release would combine all four of those broadcasts into a single set, the Half Note equivalent of the Live at the Village Vanguard box set.
Wait--There's More (Coltrane That Is)
The recorded legacy of John Coltrane is a little like the legendary Ginsu knife commercials that used to appear on late night American television--after the initial you-can't-beat-this-price offer of the knives, the announcer always uttered the tag line "But wait!!! There's more!!!!"
So here are four recently rediscovered "But wait--there's more!!!" items from the Coltrane legacy.....
1) The first new item is already available commercially, in one of the fastest discovery-to-availability turnarounds in recent history. The first Miles Davis Quintet was on the west coast in early 1956, and producer Gene Norman picked them up as the opening act for a multi-artist concert at the Civic Center in Pasadena, California on February 18, 1956, which he recorded. The group runs through five tunes in the space of about a half-hour. This gig catches the classic quintet before it was a "name" group, as evidenced by Miles's polite conversation with Norman (he actually says "thank you"!). It's available on Sony B0009MAP4A, 'Round About Midnight-Legacy Edition, released 6/14/05, which combines the original Round About Midnight LP with three bonus tracks from '55 and '56, plus the Pasadena concert and Miles's legendary comeback performance of 'Round Midnight at Newport 1955. 'Round About Midnight.
2) The second item is one of those tantalizing phantoms we've been hoping to hear for decades. First listed in the second edition of my Coltrane discography (1979), it's a concert performance by the Thelonious Monk Quartet with Coltrane from November 29, 1957. The Carnegie Hall benefit concert was recorded by Voice of America, and the tapes were recently rediscovered at the Library of Congress. The tapes are a snapshot of the rich scene in NYC in 1957, including the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra, Ray Charles, Zoot Sims with Chet Baker, and the Sonny Rollins Trio. But it's the two sets (one from each of two concerts) by Monk and Trane that are of interest here--professional recordings of a group which only existed for six months (live at the Five Spot in NYC), barely recorded, but had a profound effect on Coltrane's development and jazz itself. The performance captures the quartet near the end of its existence (the Live at the Five Spot recordings released a few years ago are, by contrast, from 1958, on a night when Coltrane subbed for Johnny Griffin). Apparently the tapes were never broadcast, so their commercial release will mark the first time anyone but a few people at the LoC have heard the music since 1957. Blue Note has announced that it will release the set on September 27 2005 under the title Monk With John Coltrane: Live at Carnegie Hall. Monk and Trane.
3) The Guernsey auction of February 2005 (discussed below) was in many ways a Coltrane auction; an amazing amount of material, much of it previously unknown, was put on the block and sold that day. A few items however did not make it to the block. One lot was a set of 35 reels of tape of music by Coltrane, submitted almost as an afterthought by Naima Coltrane's daughter--initially listed for sale, they were withdrawn at the insistence of Verve (parent of Impulse these days), which asserted ownership of the music on the tapes. Fortunately, Guernsey had hired Barry Kernfeld (editor of The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz) to identify and catalogue the material. Barry (for whom I wrote a number of Grove articles Way Back When) had access to The Recordings of John Coltrane: A Discography , my second edition (1979), precursor to the current Fujioka discography and the forthcoming Giant Steps chrono-discography, through which he was able to identify much of the music. Although the material was withdrawn and Barry's article never appeared in the Guernsey catalogue, he recently shared his research in a two-part article in the Dutch discographical journal Names & Numbers . Barry's research did not take into account Fuji's later work or the recent rediscoveries of some of these tapes, but no matter--there's music of enormous interest here. Some of the material is on the 7-inch reels Coltrane took home for review; other material is on the original 10-inch masters. The material stretches from the '61 Vanguard sessions (material long since released), through the various largely unissued sessions from 1962 (Coltrane and Ballads), the lost March '63 quartet session (63-0306) and the Johnny Hartmann session from the next day, and additional material, up through the end of 1964. The collection includes the complete tape reels from the alternate (sextet) recordings of A Love Supreme, session 64-1210 (only the first two of four takes were recovered for the most recent Deluxe Edition release of that music). We expect to sort out the details further in Giant Steps: The Ultimate John Coltrane Reference Work. When will we get to hear all of this? Who knows? But, rediscovered and identified, it's unlikely the material will stay in a closet for another forty years.
4) Finally, and most vaporous at this point, a sentence from the last paragraph of Michael Cuscuna's liner notes to Cannonball in Europe, a release of the 8/5/62 performance at Comblain-la-Tour, Belgium (posted to one of the lists by David Tegnell): "Much of the archives from this unique seven-year festival have been lost to time. But this album and a forthcoming DVD of the 1965 performance of the John Coltrane Quartet are documents of important performances that will ensure the memory of this unique festival". (June 27, 2005)
Giant Steps--The Book
Yasuhiro Fujiokas John Coltrane Discography quickly became the standard Coltrane discography upon its release in 1995, replacing the by-then outdated The Recordings of John Coltrane: A Discography (by David Wild). But nine years is a long time in the life of a discography; much new material has been discovered, with new releases, reissues, compilations of alternate takes, and more accurate information.
Work is now well underway on a successor to Fujis first edition. But the new work will be much more than just a second edition of the discography. Fujis "Syndicate" (originally Fuji, Wolf Schmaler and Michel Delorme, later joined by David Wild as Michel took a less active role) has joined forces with chronologist Chris DeVito and Coltrane scholar Lewis Porter in a project to produce the ultimate Coltrane reference work. In fact, that's the current title of the book: Giant Steps: The Ultimate John Coltrane Reference Work.
The "Quintet" is hard at work on the book, which now looks to be published early in 2007 by Routledge. A complete and up-to-the-minute discography will be supported and greatly enhanced by an exhaustive chronology, with excerpts from reports and reviews, copies of advertisements, and never-before-seen photos. Watch this space for more details on this project as they become available. (June 27, 2005)
NYC Auction Features Coltrane Treasures
It was as if somebody had raided the attics of the jazz legends, digging up forgotten bits and pieces which nobody thought had any value 30 or 50 or 70 years ago. And now here they all were, saved, catalogued, itemized, up for sale to the highest bidder. It was enough to make you wish you'd followed your father's advice, gone into business with your uncle, and become a patron of the arts instead of a mere artist or fan...
The jazz sale of the centuries (this one and the last), The Jazz Auction (as the auction house, Guernsey's, billed the event) put items on the block that most of us did not know existed--from the sublime (Coltrane's sketch of A Love Supreme) to the faintly ridiculous (home movies of Coltrane shoveling snow). The auction was held in New York City on Sunday, February 20, 2005, in Rose Hall at Jazz at Lincoln Center, starting at 1:00 pm. In the course of that afternoon the New York auction house sold more than 100 items that had belonged to Coltrane, including letters to his mother (which brought $18, 000) and a soprano saxophone which went for $71, 000.
For the Coltranologist (the most likely visitor to this page), the items that fired the imagination were the manuscripts, some 40 lots of handwritten music. Guernsey produced a catalogue, itself destined to be a collector's item (at $36 a piece), with reproductions of many of the items as well as scholarly articles about them (see above). The handwritten sketch for A Love Supreme was exceptional in itself, showing that Coltrane had envisioned a rhythm section including two conga drummers and a tymbali player, and including notations like "Last chord to sound like final chord of 'Alabama.' ".
Coltrane may have had the most items, but others were well represented. Also included were one of Ornette Coleman's notebooks, with some notes about his harmolodic theory, one of Benny Goodman's clarinets, home recordings by Charlie Parker's wife Chan and one of his saxophones, paintings and drawings by Miles Davis, two of Gerry Mulligan's baritone saxophones. Thelonious Monk was represented by a custom-tailored jacket, notebooks from high school and some music manuscripts, including an unfamiliar Christmas song, complete with lyrics.
One would have hoped that such items could be acquired by scholarly institutions like the Smithsonian or the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers, but sadly those institutions have no budget for such acquisitions, and must rely on the generosity of the musicians themselves, or the deep pockets of patrons of the arts. Some scholarly organizations bit the bullet and paid top dollar for desired treasures. For example, the High Point Museum in Highpoint NC, where Coltrane grew up, spent some $20,000 to acquire items like Coltrane's fifth grade report on "Negro History", some music manuscripts in Coltrane's handwriting, and a 1961 Down Beat magazine award for Best New Combo. We have not seen a detailed list of what was sold for how much, and to whom. We can only hope that most of these items will someday wind up in places like the IJS, available at last to all of us.(June 27, 2005)
Elvin Jones Dies
Elvin Jones, whose drums provided the propulsion for the Classic John Coltrane Quartet, died Tuesday, May 18, 2004. He was 76. Jones, who resided both in New York City and Nagasaki Japan, died of heart failure in an Englewood Cliffs NJ hospital.
At Jazz Alley, Seattle, October 31, 2002--Photo by Jack Gold
|Jones had continued to
play until a few weeks before his death. He had been hospitalized in January. There were
premature announcements of his death in late April as a result of reports from an
appearance at Yoshis in San Francisco, where he appeared weak and frail, and brought
an oxygen tank onstage.
Elvin Ray Jones was born in Pontiac Michigan, September 9, 1927, the youngest of ten siblings. Jones became the third jazz musician in the family, joining brothers Hank Jones, a pianist who is still performing, and cornetist, composer/arranger and bandleader Thad Jones, who died in 1986.
Following a three-year stint in the Army, Jones returned to Detroit in 1949, where (as the house drummer in Billy Mitchells group at the legendary Blue Bird Inn) he worked with local notables like Kenny Burrell and Tommy Flanagan, as well as such visitors as Bud Powell and Miles Davis. In 1956, following a brief tour with Charles Mingus, he moved to New York City, where he began to work and record regularly. During the next few years he performed and recorded with J.J.Johnson, Donald Byrd, Harry Sweets Edison, and Stan Getz. He can be heard to great effect on a 1957 live set with Sonny Rollins, A Night at the Village Vanguard.
Jones had met John Coltrane on occasions when the drummer sat in with Miles Daviss group. In 1960, shortly after forming his own group, Coltrane brought Jones on board, replacing Billy Higgins in the middle of a West Coast tour. Jones remained with Coltrane for most of the next 5 ½ years, becoming an essential part of the sound of the Classic John Coltrane Quartet, while developing his role from accompanist to equal participant in a form of collective improvisation. He participated in all of Coltranes major recordings of the period, from Africa/Brass and Live at the Village Vanguard through A Love Supreme to Ascension and Meditations.
In January 1966, Coltranes approach began to change, signaled in part by the addition of a second drummer, Rashied Ali. Jones left the band about this time, briefly touring with Duke Ellington before beginning a career as leader of his own groups. He performed for almost the next forty years under the rubric the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, with trios, quartets and quintets, usually without a pianist, featuring such saxophonists as Joe Farrell, Frank Foster, Dave Liebman, George Coleman, and (in the 90s) Ravi Coltrane.
Jones is survived by his wife, Keiko, and two children.(June 1, 2004)
Coltrane Home Saved from Demolition
The house where Coltrane spent the last years of his life and composed such works as A Love Supreme, Ascension and Meditations, has been saved from demolition.
|The 2500 square-foot house in Dix Hills NY was home to Coltrane and his family from 1964 through his death in 1967. Alice Coltrane and Coltranes children continued to live there until 1973. Seve Fulgoni, an engineer and jazz aficionado from Dix Hills, found the house after learning that Coltrane had been a resident of the neighborhood. After Fulgoni was elected historian of the Half Hollow Hills Historical Society six months ago, he figured he would add the Coltrane house to their register. But he soon learned that the house, which remained largely as it was during Coltranes lifetime, had been purchased by a local developer intent on demolishing it so the property could be subdivided.||
Coltrane home in 1971
Fulgoni persevered, and on March 3 the Huntington Town historic preservation commission unanimously voted to recommend that the town board designate the four-bedroom house as a landmark. The commission then passed their recommendation to the Huntington Town board, which held a public hearing was held council on April 20th, with 35 speakers and over 100 people in attendance. The board was impressed by the speakers, by the letters from scholars and jazz musicians who supported preservation, and by the appearance of interested parties like Ravi Coltrane.
As is customary, the board deferred a decision to their next meeting. At that meeting, on May 4, the Huntington Town Council voted unanimously to make the Coltrane home a landmark. This ensures that the house will not be demolished, but many steps remain before the house is purchased and preserved. For details on the Dix Hills Coltrane Home, go to www.dixhills.com .
Its worth noting that an earlier Coltrane home, the house he purchased in Philadelphia in 1952 (his home until 1957), at 1511 N. 33rd Street, is also preserved, as the home of cousin Mary Alexander and base of the John W. Coltrane Cultural Society. Historical markers identify several other buildings identified with Coltrane in Hamlet and High Point NC. (June 1, 2004)
As always, there's bad news and there's good news. The bad (or at least, not-good): Impulse's two-CD release of material from the spring 1965 Half Note broadcasts (John Coltrane Quartet) has been postponed, probably to September 2005. No reasons were available, although the tangle of licensing, ownership and rights are likely keeping teams of lawyers quite busy. The good: rumors that a previously unknown concert by the original Miles Davis Quintet (with Coltrane), recorded February 18 1956 in Pasadena CA. has surfaced. There are conflicting rumors about whether a major label (such as Concord) might take on the lawyers and make the concert available commercially...Details as always are forthcoming.(November 7, 2004)
Juno Lewis Dies. Percussionist/composer Juno Lewis, author of "Kulu Se Mama", one of the more unusual entries in the Coltrane discography, died April 9, 2002, in Inglewood CA. He was 70.
Born in New Orleans, Julian Bertrand Lewis was performing as a drummer by age 16. In the 1950s Lewis moved to Los Angeles, where he worked with his own Caribbean-style band. He also played at the Thunderbird Hotel in Las Vegas. By the early 1960s however Lewis had shifted his focus to an interest in making drums and other instruments. Eventually he opened a studio, Junos Conga Village, where he taught and made drums.
A mutual friend introduced Lewis to John Coltrane in the fall of 1965, during Coltranes tour of the west coast. During the weeks that the Coltrane group was at the long-since shuttered It Club, Lewis became friends with Coltrane, introduced his mother to him, and shared his music with him. When Coltrane took the band into the Western Recorders studio on October 14, he invited Lewis to join them. Two titles were recorded, the long autobiographical poem "Kulu Se Mama" and Coltranes "Selflessness". On the former Lewis sang and played various instruments; on the latter he played additional percussion.
Lewis performed one more time with Coltrane, at a concert at Stanford early in 1966. "Kulu Se Mama" was released late that year, as one side of the album Kulu Se Mama. Lewis had hoped to fund a cultural center with his earnings from the recording, but nothing came of the plan. Although he later played with Freddie Hubbard and Billy Higgins, he spent most of the last three decades as an instrument maker and teacher.
I talked briefly to Lewis by telephone early in 2000, in conjunction with a reissue of Kulu Se Mama, but he was unwilling to share much about his piece of the Coltrane legacy (a lingering distrust of Impulse was quite evident). I did take away a strong sense of his pride in his ancestry and its traditions, the same pride that informs "Kulu Se Mama".
Reports and Rumors
***The Deluxe Editions of Coltrane and Ballads are out, and there are scattered reports that the version of "Big Nick" on Coltrane is the version with Duke Ellington (September 26, 1962), originally on Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, and not the less common version with McCoy Tyner (from April 11, 1962). The story is that the tape librarian, asked to provide the master of the earlier version, ordered up the wrong one. Reportedly the error was corrected after a few thousand copies got outour just-received copy of the set contains the correct (earlier) version. Fortunately its pretty easy to tell which version is the Real McCoy .
***Just when you thought the bottom of the barrel had been scraped down to the bare metal come reports that a Deluxe Edition release of A Love Supreme will include some portion of the legendary (but fragmentary) December 10th version of ALS, with Archie Shepp and others added to the basic quartet. Since some of the fragments were broadcast in last years WKCR marathon (see below), the rumor seems credible. I've been told the set will feature the original suite on one CD, with an alternate from that date (already released on an earlier box set), one of the December 10th tracks, and the "live" A Love Supreme performed in France in July 1965 on the other. Ashley Kahn, whose book on A Love Supreme is due out this fall, is writing the liner notes. An October 2002 release date is part of the rumor..... Other rumors (about more live Coltrane sessions linked to the name 'Tiberi' ) are much too faint to repeat at this point
***A note of apology, in that the online discography on this site is not keeping up with the rush of events. We hope to catch up with recent releases and discoveries sometime this summer.
75 John Coltrane would have been 75 this past September (2001). That you're
reading these notes is but one indication that interest in his music continues unabated 34
years after his death (July 17, 1967), and with that ongoing interest it's no surprise
that the date did not go unnoticed. The anniversary was marked in a number of ways,
some of them sincere expressions of respect by those who acknowledge Coltrane's continuing
influence, others perhaps more closely associated with the continued marketing of his
recorded legacy. Occurences of interest:
New Releases Additions to the Coltrane Legacy...
Other Stuff. The Charly label, out of France, reissued a three-CD set of tracks from several of the European concerts, with a certain amount of overlap of the Pablo set. Let it be noted that Charly's title to this music is very questionable (whereas Fantasy's, regardless of discographical problems, is not). The set, under the title In Europe, includes tracks from the '61 and '63 Stockholm concerts (61-1123 and 63-1022), from the '62 Graz Austria concert (62-1128), from Paris in '65 (65-0728) and from the '65 Antibes Jazz Festival (the live A Love Supreme, 65-0726). We've also heard that the Prestige label (part of the same Fantasy congolmerate) reissued three CD's of tracks from Coltrane's Prestige period ('56 through '58), under the title 75th Birthday Celebration. None of this material of course is previously unissued, as is the Olatunji set and some portions of the Live Trane box.
Activities Events and performances...
Coltrane Family Web Page .The family of John Coltrane has now established their own web site, primarily devoted to the music of John Coltrane. The site is at http://www.johncoltrane.com/automat/swf/main.htm, and came online at the end of September 2001. Although the discography is just a list of some of Coltrane's albums, the site has some amazing photos (for example, the original of the famous cover shot for A Love Supreme, with Coltrane's handwritten lyrics on it), music, information about the John Coltrane Foundation (with scholarships for students studying jazz), and the promise of a John Coltrane online store. The News section currently includes a series of photos from the Coltrane Tribute described earlier.
Impulse Issues/Reissues .Impulse, created by ABC Paramount in early 1961, was Coltrane's home label from 1961 through his death. The label and its priceless recordings have floated aroundt a bit as corporate entities swallow one another. Current owner Verve Music Group has been quite active in reissuing and issuing music, in some cases from lost session tapes newly recovered, in others from outside sources. A list of releases.....
Coltrane Meets Cruise .Tom Cruise, that is. Seem the movie Vanilla Sky, which was released in December 2001, includes a party scene where the music is provided by the John Coltrane Quintet. Obviously there's some Hollywood magic at work; the band is projected as a three-dimensional holographic image (in black-and-white) in the middle of the party. The band plays "My Favorite Things", in a performance from the 1961 German television broadcast (61-1124). Thanks to a number of people who reported this, including Jack Lefton and our own Anthony Wild...December 30 2001
Index to the Coltrane News Archives. .We keep many of our older articles on-line for those who might have missed them the first time around. Occasionally we even update a story or two. Here's a linked list of them...