My music teacher Joe Nazzaretta recently sent me John Coltrane’s funeral service program. I am still moved by anything having to do with this genius of modern music. I recall sitting in a Will Rogers State Beach lifeguard tower on July 17, 1967, when I heard the news of Coltrane’s death on the local jazz station, KBCA 105.1 FM. I didn’t even know he was sick with liver cancer. He was only 40 years old. I was devastated. Rules and regulations (and no cell phones) meant that I couldn’t share my grief with anyone until later when I got off work.
Coltrane remains the greatest tenor sax innovator of all time. His utter originality and spirituality have influenced and inspired generations of musicians; lately we have been hearing a lot from Kamasi Washington, who follows the spiritual jazz legacy of Coltrane. I’ve read so much about Coltrane but never knew that both Albert Ayler (still alive in 1967) and Ornette Coleman played at his funeral. I found an audio clip of Albert Ayler performing at the service. Not great sound quality, but the devotion and energy is there. I couldn’t find any videos, at least not yet. Anybody out there know of any? Other musicians performing that day included Donald Ayler on trumpet, Richard Davis on bass, and drummer Milford Graves. It must have been an amazing day.
Vanessa Daou did a nice song about Trane’s passing a few years ago. Here it is from her 1999 album Dear John Coltrane. It is but one of many recorded tributes to the master.