John Coltrane

Perhaps the most relentlessly exploratory artist in jazz history, John Coltrane (1926–1967) always sought to take his music further, in what he viewed as a spiritual quest. Though his career was relatively short, Coltrane proved to be one of the most significant and influential figures in modern music, constantly pushing the boundaries of sound, harmony and technique.

After spending years as a supporting player behind the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Johnny Hodges and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, the tenor saxophonist’s profile rose when he joined Miles Davis’ quintet in 1955. Coltrane’s complex solos with Miles quickly elevated his career, though his style often raised eyebrows amongst critics. 1957 brought the artist a brief opportunity to perform and record with the great pianist Thelonious Monk, an experience which brought Coltrane “close to a musical architect of the highest order.” The saxophonist recalled that he “learned from [Monk] in every way.” In that same year, Coltrane released his self-titled debut on Prestige Records, though he continued to play with Miles as a featured soloist throughout the rest of the decade. Among his many albums as leader on Prestige in the late ’50s are such jazz classics as Lush Life, Soultrane, Stardust and Kenny Burrell & John Coltrane.

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In 1960, the artist formed the legendary John Coltrane Quartet, featuring pianist McCoy Tyner, drummer Elvin Jones and bassist Steve Davis (ultimately replaced by Jimmy Garrison in early 1961). The quartet became a seminal jazz group, whose incredible stamina provided a forum for Coltrane’s growth as a composer. It was also the setting for the musician’s adoption of the soprano saxophone, a move that single-handedly re-popularized an instrument that had been rarely heard in modern jazz. This era brought Coltrane one of his greatest commercial successes, the album My Favorite Things, which featured his rendition of the Rogers and Hammerstein-penned title track.

In the wake of his success, Coltrane continued to further push his rhythmic and harmonic vocabulary – alienating some fans, while exhilarating others with his “freer” jazz style. By the end of 1965, the artist had incorporated younger, avant-garde players into his quartet, including Pharoah Sanders, who became a permanent second saxophonist, as well as his wife, Alice Coltrane, and Rashied Ali, who replaced Tyner and Jones, respectively. The saxophonist’s music had entered yet another phase that, while indeed filled with cataclysmic sounds, also contained music of a new and promising lyricism. Sadly, just two years later, liver cancer would take Coltrane’s life at the age of 40, leaving his legion of disciples to ponder what further vistas he had glimpsed in his quest for musical purity. Coltrane’s music and pioneering spirit continues to inspire generations of musicians – from jazz artists to rock bands and beyond, while, most recently his legacy was celebrated in the critically acclaimed 2017 documentary film, Chasing Trane.


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In 1957, at the height of his success, Little Richard suddenly quit his rock career after a tour of Australia.

He claimed that a vision of the apocalypse came to him in a dream, and that he saw his own damnation. In his authorized biography he tells a story of a plane flight during which the overheated engines appeared in the darkness of night to be on fire. He prayed to God and promised that if the plane landed safely he would change his ways.



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