Sample - 1641 words essay topic, essay writing: John Coltrane
John Coltrane: An Experimental MusicianJazz, which evolved from African American folk music, has developed and changed over the last century to become an art form in America. It places particular importance on inventive self interpretation. Rather than relying on a written piece, the artist improvises. Jazz has taken many forms over the past seventy years; there is almost always a single person who can be credited with the evolution of that sound. From Thelonius Monk, and his bebop, to Dizzy Gillespie's big band, to Miles Davis' cool jazz, or to John Coltrane's free jazz; America's music has been developed and refined countless times through individual experimentation and innovation.
In my opinion the most noteworthy artist in the development of modern jazz is John Coltrane. In this
paper, I will focus on the way in which Coltrane's musical originality was related to the sounds of his predecessors and to the tribulations and tragedies of his life. John William Coltrane was born in Hamlet, North Carolina, on September 23, 1926. Two months later, his family moved to High Point, North Carolina. He grew up in a typical black family in the South
The Coltranes were very religious and steeped in tradition. Playing was in his blood. Both of his parents were musicians, his mother was a member of the church choir and his father played the violin. For several years, young Coltrane played the clarinet, however it wasn't his passion. It was only after he heard the great alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges playing with the Duke Ellington band on the radio, that he became enthusiastic about music.
He dropped the clarinet to take up the alto 2saxophone, before long he had mastered it. At the young age of thirteen, he experienced several tragedies that would affect his life forever and would greatly impact his music later in life. Within a year, his father, his uncle, and his minister all died. He lost every important male influence in his life. After graduating from high school in High Point, he moved to Philadelphia in 1943, where he lived in a small one-room apartment and worked as a laborer in a sugar-refinery.
Here he attended Ornstein School of Music, but only for a year. In 1945, he was drafted into the Navy and sent to Hawaii where he was assigned to play clarinet in a band called the Melody Makers. Upon his return from Hawaii a year later, Coltrane launched his music career. In the late nineteen forties, Coltrane began playing with several different R&B groups in small bars and clubs around Philadelphia. Many of the clubs had a tradition of "walking the bar" (to walk on top of the bar while playing one's instrument). Coltrane was embarrassed having to go through this custom every night.
This give him a negative image about himself and is abilities His self-esteem was crushed even further when critics said his music was too bizarre. Soon Coltrane became very depressed, and searching for a way out, he turned to heroin. Heroin was a very popular drug among black musicians in the forties. It was a form of escape that, at first, brought them together, but in the end triggered lives and careers to collapse. Coltrane was invited to play in Dizzy Gillespie's his big band in '49.
Gillespie had been a very significant figure in the bebop movement. Bebop was a style of jazz, popular during the late thirties and forties. It was characterized by integrating faster tempos, and more complex phrases than the jazz of earlier years. Gillespie's band offered 3some sense of stability for Coltrane for the first time in a long time. However, after a two-year stint with Gillespie, Coltrane kicked out due to his heroin addiction.
Again, Coltrane was reduced to "walking the bar" at in sleazy clubs. He experienced another episode of depression, which caused his addiction to grow. Again a jazz icon came to the rescue. This time it was Miles Davis. In the mid-fifties, he was invited to play with Miles Davis and his quintet.
The collaboration that developed would change his life. Davis was a star on the rise in the next jazz movement, cool jazz. Cool jazz was a striking contrast to the more traditional jazz popular during the forties. It was characterized by experimentation with musical tones, keys, and modes, improvising on scales rather than on sequences of chords, producing music that at times was very bizarre, but none the less popular. This new movement was the beginning of an experimental stage of jazz that was very popular during the sixties. The time spent with Davis was a valuable learning experience for Coltrane.
During this time he developed a style distinctly his own. His style captured the scales of the saxophone at a speed that no one had ever achieved, creating very "dense musical textures." Again Coltrane was let go from the band because of his continued use of heroin. At this point, Coltrane almost gave up music. He filled out an application to be a postman in New York City. He moved from New York back to Philadelphia in November where he lived with his mother.
His life had sunk to an all time low. Coltrane was being controlled by his drug and alcohol addiction. Coltrane realized at this point that he needed to choose between drugs and music. Fortunately for himself and us he chose music. In 1957, Coltrane's career would soar. He accepted an apprenticeship with 4"The High Priest of Bebop", Thelonius Monk. Coltrane's time spent with Miles Davis allowed him to develop his own unique style, but it was still somewhat reserved.
He was transformed into a legend with Monk. "Monk would provide Coltrane with the key to unlock all sorts of musical doors and free the dark and the beautiful visions Coltrane had seen throughout his life." Coltrane with the help of the Davis quartet learned many techniques that he integrated into his unique style. Rather than concentrating on the melodies, the group concentrated on the harmonic arrangement of a piece. At this time, Coltrane was stronger than ever. With his new knowledge, established style, and new sobriety, he was ready to set out on his own.
His most noteworthy recording during this time was Blue Trane (1957), one of several albums in his career that would be widely acclaimed. Critics now praised him, and regularly gave him good reviews. At the end of 1958, Thelonius Monk split up his quartet. This allowed Coltrane to embark on one of the most highly regarded solo careers in the jazz history. During that same year, with the help of an assortment of artists he recorded over twenty different albums, and though not famous yet, was widely respected by his fellow musicians.
After Monk's group was disbanded, Coltrane returned to collaborate with Miles Davis, but in 1960, he left to form his own band. The John Coltrane quartet (pianist McCoy Tyner, drummer Elvin Jones, and Reggie Workman on bass), included tribal music from India, the Middle East and Africa with that of the new avant-garde movement, 'free jazz'. Free jazz like the mood of the sixties was a nonconformist movement. It knowingly kept away from the structured sounds of the bebop and cool jazz eras. Instead, there was the absence of any organization, direction, or tonality, and was distinguished by random improvisation. 5 The world of jazz belonged to Coltrane during the sixties. He pushed the boundaries of jazz, while drawing ever-increasing audiences.
But he was still searching for "the mysterious sound" or his own sound. He described the sound for which he was in search of was like holding a seashell to his ear. "However one describes the strange sound, it contained some essential truth for him, existing as an omnipresent background hum behind the facade of everyday life." In the early sixties, Coltrane explored more and more with different arrangements of instruments and sounds. He became obsessed with attempting to share his musical vision. This obsession drove Coltrane to take LSD. He felt LSD would help him examine himself and his music in greater depth.
"For Coltrane and his quest, LSD was a remarkable tool to dig deeper into his own being so he could discover the essential and absolute truth at the center of his being." To his fans his music in this period was too radical, and too bizarre. Soon he thought he was losing control over his music; Coltrane's experimentation was so broad that he was unsure of what direction he wanted to go. Despite all his struggles, he never relinquished the pursuit of "the mysterious sound." In December of 1966, Coltrane realized he was becoming gravely ill. By the beginning of the next year he quit playing in public. Coltrane knew his life was rapidly coming to an end.
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