Discussion: John Coltrane, US Navy Enlistment Photo. 1945

Discussion for article #224466

A swab supreme, a swab supreme, a swab supreme…

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I was talking to a friend tonight who didn’t “get” jazz. I told her if she didn’t “get” John Coltrane, something was wrong with her. I’m going to send her this:


If she doesn’t get it then, I’m gonna have to put her under discipline.

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I get it, I just can’t stand it.

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Midnight Rambler, I love you like a brother, but let me put it this way: I am not a religious man, and I don’t believe in god, but when I hear John Coltrane play, I’m about as close to that god-I-don’t-believe-in as I’ll ever be.

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And I ain’t the only one:

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Great video - I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it to be honest. Coltrane played with such precision even when improvising his butt off. Amazing concentration. Don’t you wish you could think those notes…

McCoy is great on this take too (as are Garrison and Elvin Jones). I never saw Coltrane play but I did see McCoy at the American Music Hall back in the late 70s in his Samalayuca phase. Giants all.

Thanks for posting the link.

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Gasp!!

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Did all Navy enlistment photos look like mug shots? Or just the black dudes’ ?

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That’s what genius can look like at 18.

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I’ve been a lifelong fan, but I’m sympathetic to your friend. The word “jazz” is a catchall term—there are many wildly different-sounding sub genres within it, and not all of them would have equal appeal to everyone. And not everyone gets that the players in a typical hard-bop combo, the sort of thing most people visualize when you say the word “jazz,” are taking turns improvising new melodies over the harmony. Newcomers to the music don’t necessarily know what to listen for, or why they should be impressed. And frankly, not every jazz recording is equally compelling or effective as music, and not every musician cares about making appealing music or knows how if they do care. Personally I’d start your friend off with “Miles in Person: Friday and Saturday Night at the Blackhawk.” To my mind that’s the platonic ideal of mid-century straight-ahead hard bop jazz. If she doesn’t like that, give up, it’s a lost cause. : )

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Thanks for the suggestion. I’m a big fan of both hard bop, and of course Miles Davis, but I’ve never listened to that particular album. And you’re right that part of her problem with “jazz” is that the word conjures up something entirely different for her than for me. But lord, anybody should know some Coltrane, Mingus, Coleman, Davis, etc., just as a part of basic education, methinks. :wink:

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There are several 50s era Miles disks I could see recommending. But I also come back to Coltrane’s version of My Favorite Things or the version of My Funny Valentine on Cookin’. These are both pinnacle recordings. But they’re also highly accessible, in part because they’re still fairly well known songs in general but the arrangements are also fairly conventional, at least on the surface. And yet they provide the path into the genre.

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“My Favorite Things” is a fine intro to Coltrane, But my gateway tune was “Chim Chim Cheree”. I don’t know where it came from, stacked in between the Herb Alpert, Beatles, and Peter Paul and Mary records in our Zenith console, but from the moment I heard Elvin Jones’ drumming rolling out from those speakers I knew it was wild and beautiful and important. I was maybe 9. It’s not like I had great taste starting then- my first record at 10 was "The Association’s Greatest hits- but that rendition of that tune still makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

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I think to help non-fans understand what the excitement’s all about, it always helps to start with what’s familiar, and I think everyone’s familiar with the idea of a quintet doing straightahead pieces. The solos should tell a story and the rhythm section has to swing hard. I like Josh’s idea of using Great American Songbook tunes, because they’re familiar and you can follow the underlying harmony if you’re at all alert. The chord progression itself tells a story, it’s something you can follow, where in a modal piece you don’t even have that to latch onto. It’s like anything else, some people can hear almost anything good in jazz and understand right away, and others need more help. Just depends on the person. I made a list once of jazz pieces that became crossover hits that I can shoot you if you give me a private message. A piece like “Comin’ Home Baby,” it’s mostly just a pure groove that anyone can relate to. Jesus, I’ve got to go, I could think about this for hours bye.

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great suggestions. i was a little freaked out as a teen hearing ‘the inner mounting flame’ as my first jazz record (i’m still take it or leave it when it comes to 70s fusion). ‘kind of blue’ was a far better introduction.it’s hard to imagine missing with all blues or so what.

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This is all kinds of excellent. I walzed into the comments after seeing @Josh_M’s photo of the day post. Played this and the other YouTube movie and it’s made for a very nice afternoon.

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A lot of the1970s fusion jazz hasn’t held up so well.

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Agreed…Weather Report? John McLaughlin? At the time I really enjoyed them, but now, not so much. Not sure exactly why. Maybe because in retrospect it seems “gimmicky.” Coltrain, Davis, Hawkins…music from the head AND the heart.

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You have no idea how much it restores my sense of humanity to know that someone, somewhere listened to and enjoyed John Coltrane this afternoon. :wink:

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