John Coltrane would have been 82 today. Since his birthday falls on the Equinox, it always gives me a chance to reflect on time’s flickering, to look backward and draw inward, to take stock of what I’ve harvested. As the sun retreats and cold winds blow and shadows grow longer, I find I’m gathering myself together, closing the curtains, and taking the magnifying glass out. What better soundtrack is there for this than the music of the greatest improviser who’s ever lived? I don’t pray, but listening to ’Trane always brings me to the mountaintop—his music always gets me through. If I could enter a parallel universe, it would be the one where he’s still alive, lamentations pouring out from his golden cornucopia.
Although too young to have seen Coltrane the “Saxophone Colossus perform,” I’ve been lucky to see McCoy Tyner play a few years back in a trio setting with Billy Cobham and Stanley Clarke. I also saw and met Elvis Jones at a drum clinic just before he died. He was so radiant behind those glistening Zildjian cymbals. And Jimmy Garrison’s son, Matthew, I’ve seen in a number of contexts, most notably with John McLaughlin. A few years ago, I saw the master’s son, Ravi, with Alice Coltrane in a concert at Town Hall. They opened up for his namesake Ravi Shankar. And of course, there’s Rashied Ali who I’ve caught on a number of occasions, my favorite times being the sonic assault of Prima Materia. Do yourself a favor and check out the albums “Meditations” and “Interstellar Space.”
So as we reap our harvests, let’s celebrate each other’s accomplishments, recognize all the support we’ve received, and express gratitude for the abundance. I leave you with Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73. If he wrote this in 1600, then he would have been 36 years old at the time. Funny how easy it is for one’s heart to resonate with such a feeling at the same age (I just turned 36 myself). Also, below you’ll find an incomparable performance of John Coltrane’s and part of an interview with him. It’s interesting to contrast the soft-spoken, laconic, and unassuming hum of his voice with that of his saxophone’s magnificent roar.
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.
John Coltrane Quintet Plays “My Favorite Things”
John Coltrane interview 1966