John William Coltrane was born on September 23, 1926 in Hamlet, North Carolina. Trane was always surrounded by music growing up including his musician father which influenced his musical beginnings on clarinet and e-flat horn. Trane’s early influences also included Lester Young and Johnny Hodges, who inspired him to switch to alto saxophone. John moved to Philadelphia after high school to be closer to his Mother, who was living in New Jersey at the time. While in Philadelphia, Trane studied at Granoff Studios and the Ornstein School of Music. John was drafted into the army during World War II and played in the U.S. Navy Band in Hawaii.
After the war, Coltrane played tenor saxophone in Eddie Vinson’s band and was turned onto a lot of new things happening in Jazz during this time. Coltrane cites the work of Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and Tab Smith influencing him. After playing for Vinson, Trane played for Jimmy Heath, Dizzy Gillespie, and Johnny Hodges. In 1955, he joined the Miles Davis Quintet. Playing for Miles really put Trane on the map and he begun to get the appreciation he deserved. It was during this time he continued to develop his three-on-one chord approach known as ‘sheets of sound’.
In 1960 Coltrane formed his classic quartet with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones. Eric Dolphy and Pharaoh Sanders, among others, would join them as well. They made some of the most important albums in the history of Jazz and music; including “My Favorite Things”, “Impressions”, “Giant Steps” and “A Love Supreme”. Coltrane continued to push the boundaries in music and in Jazz until his death from liver disease in 1967.
Some of the awards given to John posthumously included a Grammy for “Best Solo Jazz Performance” on his album “Bye Bye Blackbird” in 1982 and in 1997 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1995, the United States Postal Service honored Train with a commemorative stamp and in 1999, Universal Studios - MCA Records named a street on their lot in his honor.
"My goal is to live the truly religious life, and express it in my music. If you live it, when you play there's no problem because the music is part of the whole thing. To be a musician is really something. It goes very, very deep. My music is the spiritual expression of what I am - my faith, my knowledge, my being."
"There is never any end. There are always new sounds to imagine; new feelings to get at. And always, there is the need to keep purifying these feelings and sounds so that we can really see what we've discovered in its pure state. So that we can see more and more clearly what we are. In that way, we can give to those who listen the essence, the best of what we are. But to do that at each stage, we have to keep on cleaning the mirror."
- John Coltrane