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All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Genius Guide to Jazz

The Gospel of St. John

By Published: August 16, 2005
If Eric Dolphy was more a semi-permanent guest with the Coltrane quartet, offering only embellishment to the existing mix, it was soon obvious that 'Trane was interested in bringing in more like-minded players to suit his evolving musical vision. Avant-garde tenor sax heavyweights Archie Shepp and Pharaoh Sanders, drummer Rashied Ali, and pianist/wife/suspected Yoko Ono sympathizer Alice Coltrane were gradually introduced into the line-up. Shortly thereafter, McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones left the band, formulating a daring escape by placing carefully crafted dummies of themselves under the covers of their bunks and sneaking out through the heating ducts after lights-out.

By 1966, with the new line-up firmly in place and his music some of the most experimental of his career, 'Trane's health began to fail him. Years of alcohol and drug abuse had taken their toll, and he now suffered from end-stage liver cancer. He passed away on July 17, 1967, leaving a void in jazz that has not yet been filled.

'Trane also left behind a legacy that reaches around the world (although, apparently skipping over Patrick Henry Community College. Think back to the beginning of the piece, kids). From St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church in San Francisco, where the Gospel is presented through his music; to this very article, which proves his influence so indelible that after almost 35 years, even my foolishness can't detract from it.

Till next month, kids, exit to your right and enjoy the rest of AAJ.

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