Bebop and Avant Garde Jazz Master, Saxophonist John Coltrane

A circa 1951-55 promotional poster for Coltrane. Image from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Libraries.On July 17, 1967, legendary jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane died.

Born in 1926 in the small Richmond County town of Hamlet, Coltrane and his family moved to High Point by the time he was 3-years-old. Coltrane’s love of music developed early, and he played both clarinet and saxophone in high school.

After graduating from William Penn High School, Coltrane moved to Philadelphia to attend music school. He made his professional debut in 1945 and collaborated with Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis in milestone recordings before forming his own group in 1960.

Though he died at age 40, Coltrane released nearly 50 studio albums and almost 20 singles during the course of his career.

He is perhaps remembered best for spanning genres and audiences and establishing avant garde jazz while also achieving popular success. He was posthumously awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997 and a special Pulitzer Prize in 2007.

One measure of Coltrane’s significance is that he has been the subject of at least four biographies.

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