Oct 1, 2012
John Coltrane’s 86th birthday would have been last week, and as part of the Straight No Chaser celebration of the great saxophonist, I spoke with Dr. Leonard Brown, the editor of John Coltrane and Black America’s Quest for Freedom: Spirituality and the Music, released in August 2010 by Oxford University Press. Dr. Brown will be a part of a major program at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, entitled The Second Great Migration and Music: The John Coltrane Story. That program includes lectures, discussions, film screenings and performances, and runs from October 2 to October 18, 2012. It culminates on October 28th with the program A Supreme Love: John Coltrane and His Influence On Music.
Dr. Brown is an associate professor at Northeastern University in Boston with a joint appointment in the Music and African American Studies Departments. He is co-director of the Afro-Caribbean Music Research Project and has served as head advisor for Music. For six years, he served as senior ethnomusicologist and principal cultural historian to the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, MO, the first national jazz museum in the nation.
Dr. Brown is also a professional musician (saxophonist, composer, and arranger), teacher, ethnomusicologist and specialist in multicultural education. During his almost four decades as a performing musician, he has appeared with many outstanding artists including Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, George Russell, Bill Barron, Yusef Lateef, Alan Dawson, and Ed Blackwell. He has performed nationally and internationally and is co-founder and producer of Boston’s annual John Coltrane Memorial Concert (www.jcmc.neu.edu). Established in 1977, this annual performance tribute to Coltrane’s musical and spiritual legacy is the oldest event of its kind in the world. The 35th annual event will take place on Saturday, November 3, at 7:30PM at the Blackman Theatre at Northeastern University in Boston.
Click here to listen to our conversation on Coltrane and his influences on the Civil Rights movement, the music of the world, and Black America. Coltrane musical selections featured in the podcast are:
John Coltrane – "Alabama (Take 4&5)" from Live From Birdland. One of Coltrane’s overt responses to the Civil Rights struggle, the song was written in response to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing on September 15, 1963, an attack by the Ku Klux Klan in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four girls. This now legendary recording (which was recorded in the studio, despite the album title) features the “Classic Quartet” on Coltrane, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums.
John Coltrane – “Liberia” from Coltrane’s Sound. As early as 1960 Coltrane was showing his interest in the writing music that reflected his fellow African-Americans growing racial pride. This track, named for the African country primarily established by freed blacks emigrating from the United States. The band is Coltrane on tenor sax, Tyner on piano, Steve Davis on bass and Jones on drums.
John Coltrane – “Dahomey Dance” from Ole Coltrane. Coltrane was a leader in creating what we now call “world music”, as he incorporated African and Indian sounds and titles into his works. This track features Coltrane on tenor sax, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Eric Dolphy on alto saxophone, Tyner on piano, Reggie Workman and Art Davis on bass and Jones on drums.
John Coltrane – “Peace On Earth (edit)” from Live in Japan. I only used about one-third of this titanic recording, made on Trane’s only visit to Japan in 1966. The band was his final group, and included, his wife/pianist Alice Coltrane, saxophonist/bass clarinetist Pharoah Sanders, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Rashied Ali.