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Famous Quotes
John Coltrane
(1926-67)
American jazz saxophonist and composer




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“All a musician can do is to get closer to the sources of nature, and so feel that he is in communion with the natural laws.”
-- John Coltrane

“Over all, I think the main thing a musician would like to do is give a picture to the listener of the many wonderful things that he knows of and senses in the universe. . . That’s what I would like to do. I think that’s one of the greatest things you can do in life and we all try to do it in some way. The musician’s is through his music.”
-- John Coltrane

“Sometimes I wish I could walk up to my music for the first time, as if I had never heard it before. Being so inescapably a part of it, I’ll never know what the listener gets, what the listener feels, and that’s too bad.”
-- John Coltrane

"You know, John Coltrane has been sort of a god to me. Seems like, in a way, he didn't get the inspiration out of other musicians. He had it. When you hear a cat do a thing like that, you got to go along with him. I think I heard Coltrane before I really got close to Miles [Davis]. Miles had a tricky way of playing his horn that I didn't understand as much as I did Coltrane. I really didn't understand what Coltrane was doing, but it was so exciting the thing that he was doing..."
-- Wes Montgomery interview in: Downbeat (1961).

"In short, [Coltrane's] tone is beautiful because it is functional. In other words, it is always involved in saying something. You can't separate the means that a man uses to say something from what he ultimately says. Technique is not separated from its content in a great artist."
-- Cecil Taylor

"John [Coltrane] was like a visitor to this planet. He came in peace and he left in peace; but during his time here, he kept trying to reach new levels of awareness, of peace, of spirituality. That's why I regard the music he played as spiritual music -- John's way of getting closer and closer to the Creator."
-- Albert Ayler

"Working with Monk brought me close to a musical architect of the highest order. I felt I learned from him in every way--through the senses, theoretically, technically. I would talk to Monk about musical problems, and he would sit at the piano and show me the answers just by playing them. I could watch him play and find out the things I wanted to know. Also, I could see a lot of things that I didn't know about at all."
-- John Coltrane, Downbeat (1960)

"Working with Monk is like falling down a dark elevator shaft"
-- John Coltrane, Downbeat (1960)

We have absolutely no reason to worry about lack of positive and affirmative philosophy. It's built in us. The phrasing, the sound of the music attest this fact. We are naturally endowed with it. You can believe all of us would have perished long ago if this were not so. As to community, the whole face of the globe is our community. You see, it is really easy for us to create. We are born with this feeling that just comes out no matter what conditions exist. Otherwise, how could our founding fathers have produced this music in the first place when they surely found themselves (as many of us do today) existing in hostile communitites where there was everything to fear and damn few to trust. Any music which could grow and propagate itself as our music has, must have a hell of an affirmative belief inherent in it.

--- John Coltrane letter to Don DeMichael, 2 June 1962, quoted in: Coltrane: A Biography by Cuthbert Ormond Simkins (Baltimore: Black Classic Press, 1989), p. 159.






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