Rhino Black History Month: John Coltrane

Thursday, February 20, 2014
Rhino Black History Month: John Coltrane

Some names are so associated with a particular genre that you can’t hear one immediately thinking of the other. Such is the case when it comes to John Coltrane and jazz.

Born in the appropriately-named city of Hamlet, North Carolina on September 23, 1926, Coltrane experienced the loss of several family members during his childhood, including his father, his grandparents, and one of his aunts, leading him to be raised predominantly by his mother by the time he entered his teens. Coltrane’s career in music began as a result of a stint in the US Navy, where his experiences playing in the Navy jazz band inspired him to begin studying jazz theory in earnest once he returned to civilian life.

To glance at a list of the artists Coltrane played for and with during the course of his career is to look at a roll call of some of jazz’s greatest musicians: Dennis Sandole, Eddie Vinson, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Bostic, Johnny Hodges, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Cannonball Adderly, Red Garland, Bill Evans, Duke Ellington, Ornette Coleman, Freddie Hubbard, Milt Jackson, Don Cherry… The list can and does go on and on and on, a fact which becomes all the more amazing when you consider that Coltrane was only 40 years old when he died from liver cancer on July 16, 1967.

In celebration of his legacy, Rhino has compiled a playlist focusing on the Atlantic Records era of Coltrane’s career, starting with songs from his label debut, 1960’s Giant Steps, and including tracks from Coltrane’s Jazz (1960), My Favorite Things (1961), Ole Coltrane (1962), Coltrane Plays the Blues (1962), and Coltrane’s Sound (1964). It’s worth noting that the latter two albums were compiled after Coltrane had left Atlantic, but the material was recorded while he was still with the label, and while he may not have had any hand in putting the sets together, they’re still highly regarded by fans and are certainly worthy of representation here.

We should probably also mention that, yes, we’re very much aware that Coltrane also had a couple of collaborative records released on Atlantic – 1961’s Bags & Trane, recorded in 1959 with Milt Jackson, and 1967’s The Avant-Garde, recorded in 1960 with Don Cherry – but, look, if you really want it all, then all you have to do is pick up The Heavyweight Champion: The Complete Atlantic Recordings. What we’re offering is intended more as a general sampling. It’s still a solid listen if you’re already familiar with the man’s work, but if you haven’t yet caught Coltrane fever, now’s your chance.