The 35th anniversary concert proved that John Coltrane’s music and memory continue to strongly hold sway in the hearts and souls of musicians and audiences alike.
By Jason M. Rubin.
John Coltrane left this plane of existence 45 years ago. Exactly 10 years later, on July 17, 1977, the first John Coltrane Memorial Concert was held in a small performance space in Boston. As the tradition grew, so did its audience, and the event has occupied Northeastern University’s Blackman Auditorium since 1986. The 35th anniversary concert was held on November 3, 2012, proving that Coltrane’s music and memory continue to strongly hold sway in the hearts and souls of musicians and audiences alike.
It is to the credit of the concert’s founders, which include the saxophonist Dr. Leonard Brown, who serves as associate professor of music and African American studies at Northeastern, and percussionist Syd Smart, that the JCMC has evolved into more than simply a celebration of a master musician—important though that is. Over the years, the concert has also provided a platform for honoring people for their contributions to jazz music and history, and since 1992 the John Coltrane Memorial Concert Educational Outreach Program has brought live performances of creative improvisational music to elementary and secondary students in schools throughout Boston and Cambridge. Earlier this year, the Friends of the John Coltrane Memorial Concert became registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.
But getting back to the concert. This year’s honorees were saxophonist Andy McGhee and former WGBH jazz disk jockey Steve Schwartz. McGhee, honored on the night of his 85th birthday, was recognized for his long career as a musician, in which he performed with the bands of Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman, and Count Basie, as well as an educator at the Berklee College of Music. Schwartz, whose status as a beloved presenter of jazz has been elevated even higher in recent months due to his becoming a martyr for the sake of WGBH’s commitment to money over music, received a hero’s welcome and a warm embrace from his former colleague, Eric Jackson, who reprised his traditional role as master of ceremonies for the event.
The concert’s special guest was local girl made good Terri Lyne Carrington, who hails from Medford, Massachusetts, and was a drum phenom by the time she was a teenager. Anchoring the John Coltrane Memorial Ensemble seemed second nature to Carrington, whose ability to build a tight yet fluid groove was on display all evening. Though her solo spots were few and short, she added considerable energy to a band that was chock full of local legends and young lions.
Briefly, the ensemble featured Carl Atkins, Brown, McGhee, Bill Pierce, and Stan Strickland on saxophones; Bill Banfield on electric guitar; Consuelo Candelaria-Barry on piano; Tim Ingles and John Lockwood on electric and acoustic bass, respectively; Ricardo Monzon on percussion; and Emmett G. Price III on piano and keyboards. On some tunes, the entire ensemble played, while others featured different, smaller configurations.
The program opened with two tunes from Coltrane’s Blue Train album: the title track, which featured short solos from a number of the players, and “Moment’s Notice,” which proffered a sprightly arrangement by Pierce. That was followed by Price’s hornless arrangement of “Impressions,” with a small electric group consisting of Banfield (who unleashed a torrid solo), Ingles, and Price, supported by the acoustic rhythms of Carrington and Monzon. That was followed by a lovely reading of the somewhat obscure early ‘60s Coltrane composition “Central Park West” from Coltrane’s Sound, deftly arranged by Atkins. The first half of the program concluded with one of the highlights of the evening, “Equinox,” arranged and conducted by Banfield, with Strickland distinguishing himself on both baritone sax and flute while Carrington kept up a busy and funky beat.
After a brief intermission, a photo slideshow of images from previous concerts aired on a screen while a recording of “After the Rain” from an early ‘90s concert played in the background. Following that, Strickland, clearly on a roll, powerfully led his own arrangement of “Selflessness,” one of Coltrane’s major works from his fertile 1965 period. In the original, Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders shared sax duties; at the concert, Atkins played Sanders to Strickland’s Coltrane, which resulted in some hot blowing.
That was followed by a beautiful duet arrangement of “After the Rain” with Candelaria-Barry (the arranger) and Pierce, who demonstrated a stunning ability to articulate softly and lyrically on tenor. “Resolution,” the second part of the miraculous A Love Supreme, came next. Arranged by Brown, the piece showed that the ensemble was equal to the composition. The final number was “Peace on Earth,” a soothing culmination of all the emotions unleashed over the course of the concert. A richly deserved standing ovation capped another successful John Coltrane Memorial Concert, with everyone present already impatiently awaiting next year’s edition.
Jason M. Rubin is a Boston-based writer whose first novel, The Grave and the Gay — based on the 17th-century English ballad “Matty Groves” that was popularized in more recent times by Fairport Convention and Doc Watson — was published in September. You can learn more here.
As “Arts Now” instructors in the Boston University Writing Program, Anthony Wallace and I (Arts Fuse Editor Bill Marx) want to “make learning real”—our motto— with the ultimate aim of making writing real to the students. This past November, Writing Program lecturer Tom Oller took his WR100: Boston Jazz Now students to the 35th Annual John Coltrane Memorial Concert, after which his students wrote reviews, a selection of which has been posted below. Here, international as well as native-speaking students have joined with novelist and critic Jason M. Rubin to share their thoughts about a venerable Boston tradition as well as a quintessentially American artform.
Tom Oller Lecturer, CAS Writing Program
For students in the Boston Jazz Now writing courses at BU, the John Coltrane Memorial Concert was the culminating event in a series of concerts that they attended and wrote about this semester. As part of the Arts Now Initiative at BU, Boston Jazz Now introduces students to live jazz in Boston, a leading center for jazz in the US. Students examine the evolution of jazz as a musical form and its spread to different regions of the country, focusing on the development of jazz in Boston, with special attention to the musicians and their music, the schools, and the clubs, both past and present. Each of the three major essays for the course is connected with and based on a concert event.
The first event was the Music of Marty Ehrlich concert at the New England Conservatory on September 13, which featured the avant-garde/experimental saxophonist and clarinetist conducting and playing his own compositions with students and faculty of NEC’s Department of Contemporary Improvisation. The next concert was the Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival on September 29, under the artistic direction of drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, celebrating women in jazz on three stages set up along Columbus Avenue. The final event of the semester, the John Coltrane Memorial Concert at Northeastern University, gave the students a great opportunity to see new interpretations of Coltrane’s works as arranged and played by distinguished Boston-area musicians and educators. Here is a sampling of their reviews of the concert, which they will later expand into essays on Coltrane and his music.
Reina Chehayeb, Psychology Major, Beirut, Lebanon
The 35th annual John Coltrane Memorial concert took place last Saturday at Blackman Theatre, at Northeastern University in Boston. The memorial concert is held annually in memory of John Coltrane, a jazz saxophonist who worked specifically in the bebop, hard bop, and avant-garde styles. The memorial concert, which featured some well-known and enthusiastic jazz musicians, consisted of several covers of Coltrane’s songs, and included Grammy-award winning drummer Terri Lyne Carrington on many of the pieces.
The ensemble opened with “Blue Train,” which, like many of the other pieces they played, resembled the style of free jazz. This resemblance became exceptionally prominent when a sporadic piano solo began in the second piece, “Moment’s Notice,” where the style of the pianist greatly mirrored that of Cecil Taylor, a jazz pianist who became known for his unconventional, seemingly chaotic style and his confidence in free jazz’s rise to popularity.
The performers were not the only source of enthusiasm at the memorial concert, however, as the audience, too, took a great part in creating the lively atmosphere. As the ensemble played, the more sporadic and seemingly random the pieces sounded, the more the audience responded positively, with everyone erupting in loud applause whenever a solo ended and bobbing their heads and tapping their feet at a different time. The fact that everyone was following a different rhythm or beat was a representation of the idea that jazz music could be defined as whatever the audience takes away from experiencing it. Everyone interpreted the music in their own way to absorb whatever message they could fathom was coming from the performers. This environment, initiated by the enthusiasm of the musicians and developed by the positive response from the audience came to create a lively, carefree atmosphere that mirrored what jazz music is all about.
Saturday, November 3rd was the 35th Annual John Coltrane Memorial Concert. Hosted at Northeastern University, the concert had a great turnout. Both Andy McGhee, saxophonist, and Steve Schwartz, disc jockey, were honored for their outstanding contributions to the jazz world. The introduction was laid back and began in a relaxed atmosphere yet with great energy.
The concert’s first song was “Blue Train”, arranged by the ensemble. This was a lively song that did a phenomenal job of showing off the skills of the concert’s special guest, Terri Lyne Carrington. Her drum solo was fantastic and really got the crowd into the music. The next piece was “Moment’s Notice”, arranged by Bill Pierce. This was another up-beat number, which featured solos of many of the performers.
The third song was an unrestricted arrangement of “Impressions.” It began with a drum solo by Carrington, and the other instruments began to build the volume of the piece. This particular song, to me, sums up the entire concert. During this song, the performers were clearly having fun. They were looking at each other and smiling as each musician showed off their stuff. Guitarist Bill Banfield had the most prevalent solo and showed great emotion and skill. This arrangement allowed the musicians to be free to express themselves as well as the music of John Coltrane.
The next piece was an arrangement of “Central Park West” by Carl Atkins, which was followed by “Equinox”, arranged and conducted by Bill Banfield. This was the last song before intermission, and it was a perfect selection. It featured a clear motif with clarinet and flute solos, as well as vocals by Stan Strickland. Banfield was directing when and who was going to solo. He was also very lively, jumping around and clapping, which engaged the crowd.
From what I could see from about the 20th row, everyone in the audience was having a blast. Heads were bobbing, people were smiling, and there was great applause after solos and songs. The free and fun vibe that the performers were feeling definitely carried over to the audience. It is amazing how John Coltrane’s music still inspires, not only musicians, but also jazz fans everywhere. It’s important to have these memorial concerts to remember how influential and outstanding John Coltrane was to jazz. But more importantly, they continue to expose Coltrane’s style to audiences of new generations, which allows Coltrane’s music to continue to evolve and influence jazz musicians of the future.
Shinji Kawata, Communications, Japan
John Coltrane was a true revolutionary. He was among the most important, and most controversial, figures in jazz . With extraordinary experience on the alto, tenor, and soprano saxophone, he joined the Miles Davis quintet (the Classic Quintet), in the mid-twentieth century and thereupon leapt to fame in the world of jazz. Alongside Davis were other jazz musicians who similarly adopted Coltrane’s musical skillset by collaborating with him, including Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Johnny Hodges.
Although Coltrane played professionally for only 20 years, his impact in jazz cannot be overlooked. The controversy surrounding the gap between his earlier, more conventional work and his later, more experimental work influenced other jazz musicians to experiment in their own respective crafts. As a result, musical organizations such as the John Coltrane Memorial Concert have paid tribute to Coltrane’s impact for well over three decades.
This year marked the 35th anniversary of the annual John Coltrane Memorial Concert, with appearances from a range of talented musicians including Terri Lyne Carrington on the drums, Carl Atkins on the woodwinds and sax, Bill Banfield on guitar, Consuelo Candelaria-Barry on piano, Tim Ingles on electric bass, John Lockwood on acoustic bass, Ricardo Monzon on percussion, Emmett G. Price on piano and keyboards, and Stan Strickland on sax, woodwinds, and vocals. Also, Leonard Brown, Andy McGhee, and Bill Pierce performed on the reeds.
This all-star ensemble performed in Northeastern University’s Blackman Theatre to an array of different audience members ranging from old-timer jazz enthusiasts to young college students looking to grasp some knowledge about music. The Blackman Theatre boasts a soothing atmosphere accompanied by the dim lighting. With the coziness of the seats and the warmth of the auditorium, the concert induces a welcoming listening experience for the audience.
Although most of the compositions performed in the concert are avant-garde and chaotic, there was a certain attractiveness to it that created nods-of-appreciation from the audience. It was curious to see which beat and rhythm the audience were nodding to exactly; but the drums and acoustic bass would occasionally provide good steady recognizable beat for the audience to follow. At some occasions, it would seem like each musician would be experimenting on his or her own instrument, in his or her own respective bubble. However, it may be this element of chaos and disorganization that renders these pieces attractive.
Personally, the more conventional pieces that were played were much enjoyable and easier to follow. “Equinox” would be a prime example of a track that contained at least some sort of organization; the consistent rhythm of the acoustic bass enhanced the drums, which perfectly complemented the slow and steady flow of the soothing vocals. The slap bass also induced a hint of funk, which added a more modern lick to the song. Additionally, the solos from the woodwinds and piano made this track just an overall delight.
Overall, this concert was clearly aimed at an audience who greatly appreciates the experimental nature of Coltrane’s works. The annual John Coltrane Memorial Concert continues to boast his form of creative expressionism through the use of such talented musicians to the audience who share a general interest in avant-gardism, and hopefully would continue to do so in many years ahead.
Carter McAlister, English major, Westford, MA
November 3rd, 2012 was the 35th annual John Coltrane Memorial Concert at Northeastern University. A long-standing tradition, this concert featured many different artists who all came together to perform well-loved songs originally written by John Coltrane. The artists featured were Leonard Brown, Andy McGhee, and Bill Pierce on reeds, Carl Atkins on reeds and woodwinds, Stan Strickland on reeds, woodwinds, and voice, Bill Banfield on the guitar, Consuelo Candelaria-Barry and Emmett G. Price III on piano and keyboards, Leonard Brown on reeds, Terri Lyne Carrington on drums, Tim Ingles playing the electric bass, John Lockwood on the acoustic bass, and Ricardo Monzon on percussion.
This was the first time that this unique combination of artists had ever performed together at the same time on the same stage. Their different styles and energies greatly affected the way the pieces were performed. Each artist put their entire being into their performance. Each solo was performed like it was the last thing these artists would ever do. They focused all of their energy into the music.
Although Coltrane originally wrote the pieces performed, each piece was arranged by a different member of the ensemble. The entire ensemble arranged the first piece, as well as the last piece. This allowed the musicians to influence the way each song was performed and how it was interpreted. My favorite song was “Impressions.” This song was heavily focused on the guitar. Banfield took many solos and put a lot of energy into his performance. He displayed his guitar skills in a very impressive way. His solos featured many scales and sliding notes. They were very original and unexpected.
I also liked “Blue Train” because each artist performed a solo. It was a very creative environment where the instruments were the main form of expression. Each performer took their turn to give the song all they had and never disappointed the audience.
Overall, the audience seemed to enjoy the concert. They appreciated the music played and were very enthusiastic in their applause. It was an upbeat, diverse crowd. Everyone wanted to come see John Coltrane’s music performed and they were all there as music and jazz lovers interested in musical expression. Hopefully the annual John Coltrane Memorial Concert will continually be held here in Boston so that people can enjoy his music for generations to come.
John Coltrane was one of the greatest figures in the history of jazz. After Charlie Parker, he was the most revolutionary and widely imitated saxophonist in jazz. His footprint in the evolution of jazz was so important that his legacy is still celebrated in current days. Through the effort from various jazz musicians and groups such as ‘Friends of John Coltrane’, his indescribable contribution to the world of jazz is still completely preserved.
Since its inauguration on July 17, 1967, the annual John Coltrane Memorial Concert has been around for 35 years, and its popularity grows stronger and stronger each year. The 35th Annual John Coltrane Memorial Concert (JCMC) was held by the Friends of the John Coltrane Memorial Concert on November 3, 2012 at Blackman Auditorium, Northeastern University, Boston. This annual concert showcases John Coltrane’s ageless jazz compositions, ranging from ‘Blue Train’ to “Peace on Earth,” played by renowned musicians who were deeply affected by the works of John Coltrane.
This showcase has also grown into more than a mere memorial concert. It has evolved into a gathering of prominent jazz musicians, celebrating the outstanding contributions by individuals to jazz music and history. On this night, the annual concert celebrated the contribution of Andy McGhee and Steve Schwartz – McGhee for his long career in the world of jazz music, performing in bands of Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman and Count Basie as well as his contribution as a professor in the Berklee College of Music. Schwartz was awarded for his outstanding contribution as a loyal presenter of jazz at WGBH Boston.
The concert lineup featured Carl Atkins, Leonard Brown, Andy McGhee, Bill Pierce and Stan Strickland on reeds. Bill Banfield was in charge of providing guitar accompaniment for the ensemble. Consuelo Candelaria-Barry was the pianist of the night, partnered by Emmett G. Price III on keyboards. The bassists were Tim Ingles on electric bass and John Lockwood on acoustic bass. Ricardo Monzon showed his expertise in percussion and Stan Strickland in his woodwinds and voice.
The guest performer for the night was Terri Lyne Carrington, nicknamed ‘TLC’ by the host, Eric Jackson. Terri Lyne Carrington was a prodigy in playing drums when she was a teenager. She has been involved in the world of jazz for decades and her skills in setting the rhythm for the concert is unquestionable. As the drummer, she set the foundation of all the musical compositions, creating the groovy beats of jazz all evening. Even though she only had a few solo opportunities, her accompaniment was critical to the other local legends in the ensemble.
The concert began with two musical pieces from John Coltrane’s hit album Blue Train. The opening composition was “Blue Train,” arranged by the ensemble, showcasing the solo improvisation of each of the instrumentalists present on the stage. Bill Pierce emphasized the use of reeds in his arrangement of ‘Moment’s Notice’, giving the solo spot to Andy McGhee to showcase his expertise in reeds. Terri Lyne Carrington kicked up the tempo with her solo in the beginning of “Impressions.” Accompanied by Ricardo Monzon on percussion, Bill Banfield strummed his melodies throughout this composition. The concert continues with ‘Central Park West’ from John Coltrane’s album ‘Coltrane’s Sound,’ arranged by reeds player Carl Atkins. The first half concluded with ‘Equinox,’ arranged and conducted on stage by guitarist Bill Banfield.
The intermission was nothing short of special. A slideshow of past photographs of the annual John Coltrane memorial concerts was projected, accompanied by a recording of ‘After the Rain’ from the early 90’s. The slideshow ended with John Coltrane’s quote, “Music is the universe. It is a single universal force and there can be no dividing lines or categories.”
The annual concert resumed with classic John Coltrane compositions such as “Selflessness” and “After the Rain.” The duet between Consuelo Candelaria-Barry and Bill Pierce was nothing less than magnificent. Ricardo Monzon displayed his proficiency in handling percussion in “Resolution,” accompanying the melody played by the reed players. The finale was ‘Peace on Earth’, arranged by the ensemble, showcasing the culmination of all emotions evoked throughout the performance night. Standing ovations concluded yet another much-appreciated annual memorial concert of John Coltrane music, with the audiences already looking forward to the next year’s recital.
The John Coltrane Memorial Concert was a success for both the performers and the audience. While the musicians were rewarded for the accomplishments they have achieved in the musical world, the audience was in turn rewarded with an unbelievable jazz performance. The concert brought together twelve very different musicians from around the world to participate in this annual concert and to perform the music of the late jazz musician, John Coltrane. This annual performance has been brought to life for the past thirty-five years and celebrates African-American jazz musicians along with the legacy of the talented John Coltrane.
As the host, Eric Jackson, stated, “you will never see a group of musicians like this playing together on the same stage anywhere else in the world”, and the result was quite remarkable. Musicians ranged from Grammy winner Terri Lyne Carrington to the worldwide famous Stan Strickland, jazz singer, saxophonist, flutist, and actor, as well as ten other unbelievably talented Jazz musicians. Although they all hail from different areas of the world and come from different backgrounds, they all share a common passion, a passion which came to life through the musical inspiration of one of jazz’s greatest musicians.
As opposed to a formal, classical concert in which the orchestra performs composed pieces played by seated musicians, this particular Jazz concert was lively and interactive. Each musician moved to the rhythm of his own music as well as to the music of his colleagues around him, and the movement was mirrored by the audience, completely enraptured by the sound reverberating around the auditorium.
It was interesting to see which pieces and which musicians moved the audience, who never interacted with the music at the same time. A few musical numbers practically brought some members of the audience to their feet. The guitar solo of Bill Banfield caused the sharp echo of the snapping of fingers resounding throughout the auditorium, while the interaction of all the musicans together caused the sharp tang of high heels tapping on the floor, all of which adding to the rhythm reverberating through the instruments on stage.
This was the first of these Coltrane Memorial Concerts that I have ever attended and was by far the best Jazz performance I have ever been to. It was not only pleasing to sit through but was also very informative about the legacy of a very talented musican who, until this night, I had only heard of in passing. If anyone is in the Boston area this time next year for the thirty-sixth performance, I strongly encourage attendance, as your expectations will be fulfilled.
On Saturday, November 3, 2012, Northeastern University hosted the John Coltrane Memorial Concert. The night was particularly exceptional, as it marked the 35th anniversary of the JCMC, a yearly performance in honor of the legendary jazz musician, John Coltrane. The concert featured the John Coltrane Memorial Ensemble, a collection of some of the most gifted musicians in jazz today, and they joined together to celebrate the life and legacy of John Coltrane with a special commemorative performance that exhibited Coltrane’s music.
John Coltrane was known for conveying certain emotional influences to the audience through his music, and during the concert I found myself experiencing diverse sentiments from piece to piece. Whether it was the upbeat and positive vibes of “Moment’s Notice,” or the smooth and funky groves of “Equinox,” I was always engaged in the music differently depending on the various expressive tones of the piece. John Coltrane was also famous for his outstanding improvisation, and I felt the artistic passion of each musician being released, as they pushed their solos to the brink of chaos. In the piece “Impressions,” I found it especially remarkable when the guitarist switched from a more acoustic to a more electric sound for a very impressive solo, as the guitar’s “grungy” tone reminded me of a rock concert.
In addition, each musician in the ensemble was extremely well known and respected among the jazz community today, making the performance a truly special night of music. Overall I thought the concert was an enjoyable experience, as it gave me a well-rounded taste of Coltrane’s unique sound, and after the performance ended I was immediately enticed to go home and listen to even more of Coltrane’s music.
The John Coltrane Memorial Concert (JCMC) is a tradition at Northeastern University. On Saturday, November 3, 2012, jazz lovers and fans in Greater Boston gathered at NEU to celebrate the 35th anniversary of JCMC, the world’s oldest annual performance in memory of John Coltrane, who was a legend in his generation. The 35th JCMC was a powerful spectacle, stunning in sight and sound. No matter whether you are a jazz lover or not, you could find something that you liked in the concert. I think the most beautiful thing was that jazz lovers could listen to amazing jazz music performed by an amazing ensemble including Carl Atkins, Bill Banfield, Andy McGhee and our friend from the Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival, Terri Lyne Carrington. Both audiences and performers had a chance to relive old dreams and tales.
Even without reviewing my notes from the concert, I can still recall two songs in particular. The first jazz piece in this concert is “Blue Train.” It has been really popular since it was first released on the second solo album from Coltrane. I seldom listen to hard bop, but “Blue Train” is very impressive and attractive. I’m not an experienced jazz fan, so ease in listening is very important to me. The fundamental melody of it is easy to accept and to enjoy. In another words, “Blue Train” is a piece you can sit down and listen to. Nothing from it is abstract or complicated. The second song that impressed me a lot is “Moment’s Notice.” It’s a classic jazz standard composed by John Coltrane. I love the pleasantness of this music. It made me feel that I’m sitting in Barcelona and enjoying my sunshine, coffee and cup of Sunday. In Moment’s Notice, piano was highlighted. Consuelo Candelaria Barry gave us a great performance on piano. And after the piano solo, all instruments played the fundamental melody again. Even after the music was over, I could still hum the melody.
All in all, JCMC brought me a brand new audio experience of jazz. As a jazz green hand, this was exactly I wanted and expected. JCMC is that type of jazz concert that shows us classical and everlasting jazz, and also keeps the audience glued to their seats. As a student of “Boston Jazz Now”, I enjoyed the concert, and the concert also gave me a good lesson on what is jazz in Boston. Boston is a center of jazz, not only yesterday, but also in the future.
Janyaporn Limpiyachart, Biology Premedical
Is it possible to travel around the world without getting on a plane? After attending one of the most astonishing concerts, on Saturday the 3th of November, I would definitely say yes. There are many reasons to support why the John Coltrane Memorial Concert made me feel like I was travelling around the world all at once.
First of all, the musicians performed the concert in a very unique way, different from what Coltrane had performed. There was a variety of atmosphere given in each piece. Three songs stood out to me the most, “Blue Train” aka “Blue Trane,” “Impressions,” and “Central Park West.” With its Latin beat, “Blue Train” made me imagine a restaurant in Mexico. The music turned out to be Latin and Funk Rock Jazz, a brilliant combination of many instruments such as piano, keyboard, bass, guitar, and percussion. Moreover, the melody was easy to listen to as many instruments played it repeatedly. In my perspective, “Blue Train” was perfectly chosen to be the opening piece of the concert.
Secondly, as for “Impressions,” the title of the song clearly reflected what the song was about. My first impression for this song was “impressed.” I was stunned by Terri Lyne Carrington’s drum solo. She used her drumsticks to perform unbelievable techniques. Her movement caught my attention throughout the piece. I was wondering how she could produce so many different sounds that I have not heard anyone play before. Furthermore, after Carrington’s solo, the guitar, bass, keyboards, and percussion joined in. It was such a perfect combination of how each performer chose to imitate each other part. During the performance, I realized that most performers closed their eyes while playing. This clearly demonstrated to me that all of them were really into the music. Also, I was closing my eyes during the concert in order to give my whole attention to the production of the sound. “Impressions” made me feel like I was once again in Hawaii. There was a unique sound produced by the percussion that imitated the sound of nature from the beach. I was really impressed by this.
Lastly, the last piece before the intermission was called “Central Park West.” As the song started to play, a whole different atmosphere had swept in. While I did not know the title beforehand, I could almost have guessed the name to be “Central Park.” All the musicians performed beautifully. There was a repetition of the same riff played repeatedly by different instruments; nevertheless, each time the riff was played in a different way. The melody stunned me. I could imagine myself to be at the park. The sound from the reeds made me think of the wind blowing the leaves from their branches. The song kept playing in my head even after music ended. It was clearly one of the best jazz songs I have ever heard.
After attending the concert, I felt really honored that Eric Jackson hosted this concert. He especially gave all the listeners beautiful memories. I would also want to say thank you to all the musicians that had given me a perfect night to remember.
Boston, a city filled with jazz, honored a great jazz musician, John Coltrane, by holding the latest event in the world’s oldest annual memorial concert at Northeastern University on November 3, Saturday. Especially, this year, John Coltrane Memorial Concert presented Friends of the John Coltrane Memorial Concert, a newly organized group of musicians to promote John Coltrane’s music as well as legacy and to influence students with positive energy by teaching them music of African-American culture.
This year’s 35th Annual John Coltrane Memorial Concert featured Terri Lyne Carrington, a 2012 Grammy Award winner who directed the Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival. She recently worked as a leader of the Mosaic Project with talented female artists. The John Coltrane Memorial Ensemble included Bill Banfield for guitar, Consuelo Candelaria-Barry on keyboards and piano, Carl Atkins on woodwinds and reeds, Tim Ingles on electric bass, John Lockwood on acoustic bass, Ricardo Monzon on percussion, and, finally, Stan Strickland on reeds, voice, and woodwinds. Also it was special night for the audience to celebrate the 85th birthday of Andy McGhee, a legendary saxophonist. Eric Jackson, a popular icon in jazz radio, hosted the show.
The first half of the concert was jazz combined with Latin taste and even rock and roll style. After the intermission, the concert showcased more avant-garde pieces, Coltrane’s focus in music. The very first song was “Blue Train,” one of the best-known songs of John Coltrane. Each of the musicians a improvised solo part so nice and smooth that the audience cheered out loud. While “Moment’s Notice” was pervaded with the warm and delightful atmosphere of spring, “Impressions” showed a powerful and abrupt start with drums and cymbals. Each rhythm instrument like drums, keyboards, and percussion displayed a unique set of beats, and the electric guitar gave a dreamy but very clear sound to the song. After that, the musicians played “Central Park West” with jazzy grooves and let the audience get absorbed in the calming sound of saxophones. Bill Banfield directed the whole ensemble during Equinox and watching him walking around the stage and dancing encouraged the audience to enjoy the music with no tension around them.
After the intermission, “Selflessness” pushed the limit of avant-garde and it was amazing how the musicians cooperated in playing this chaotic music. To soothe the mood after the fast-moving and forward-moving “Selflessness,” musicians played “After the Rain.” Again, the saxophone played melody along with piano, and percussion and drum beats heightened the lazy and slow mood. As the bass started to flick the strings during “Resolution,” the repetitive sound of saxophone joined in and the piano expressed itself. All the musicians grandiosely and passionately played the last song, “Peace On Earth,” in very avant-garde way. It almost sounded like classical music due to beautiful melody of string instruments.
The way the concert arranged the songs was remarkable because the audience can experience running, walking, and then staying in one spot in terms of tempo of each piece. Also each piece showed the best of John Coltrane’s legacy interpreted in modern style. If John Coltrane saw this concert, he would close his eyes and dive into the sounds of the concert until the end.
Jen-Yu Teng, Business Management, Taiwan
The John Memorial Concert is in its 35th year. I was very lucky to have the chance to enjoy the stunning live performance featured at Northeastern University on Nov.3rd. Drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, saxophonist Andy McGhee and all the other jazz icons that were honored in the concert this year brought a distinctive harmonization. While recreating Coltrane’s music in a pioneering ensemble, they still retained the tremendous wealth of the original music.
John Coltrane is a consummate musician and spiritual leader who continues to influence modern jazz more than three decades after his death. Yet, his experimental work made him an elusive figure in the history of jazz music. Coltrane is a man who never stopped searching for new approaches to create great pieces of art. He is also a man who always pushed beyond the limits of his instruments, stretching the boundaries of tonality and harmonic development as well as rhythm and dynamic improvisation. By continually seeking new states of technical expression, Coltrane successfully added sonorous depth and complexity to his music. He also revisited his African religious musical roots and brought us on a spiritual journey.
However, Coltrane’s music does more than challenge the public to look for new levels of appreciating jazz music; it is an aesthetic transformation of reality, a confrontation to prejudice, and most importantly, a cultural expression of the entire Black community. As Coltrane said himself: “My music is the spiritual expression of what I am—my faith, my knowledge, my being.” This demonstrates Coltrane’s effort in embodying the “Black American experience” through his artistic persona.
“Blue Train” is an epitome of Coltrane’s stylistic uniqueness and inexplicable innovation in jazz, and it opens up the concert with spiritual depth. The music is a sharing of release that was composed at the point when John Coltrane had beaten his addiction to heroin and decided to move on. It invigorated countless people at that time who were suffering in misery as the music captures the possibilities that a change in direction in life could bring. Instead of projecting the flooded hurt and frustration around the world, Coltrane’s playing celebrated sound. This is the album where Coltrane gets closest to hard bop, a style of music that brings us back “under the influence of the poor urban Black experience, with fast, furious songs, a harsher tone, and a renewed emphasis on improvisation.” (Wright)
While the media keep providing statistics about higher employment, lower wages, and lower college graduation rates, the Black American experience is such a complex concept that one could hardly explain it with mere statistics. That experience could range from jazz and blues, to Black literature and the Civil Right movement. It could involve the slaves that were yearning for liberty, the poor longing for a better life and a small Black elite.
Art becomes a means to understand the human condition and capture essential truth in society, and it provides insight into things that numbers and facts alone fail to explain. Art can expose anything from beauty to horror, from the hopes for love for the future to the tragedies of human existence. Art, whether in the form of music, painting, or literature, voices the deep wishes and desires that humans struggle to share.
While Black Americans were calling for freedom and seeking a way to escape from an unjust destiny, Coltrane successfully exposed and further expressed his aspirations through his compositions. He showed the spirit of black pride and optimism that oppression would be eventually overcome. Miles Davis would say on Coltrane’s death in 1967, “Trane’s music…represented, for many blacks, the fire and passion, and rage and anger and rebellion and love that they felt, especially among the young black intellectuals and revolutionaries of that time.”
John Coltrane devoted his whole life to composing truly great pieces of art rather than just satisfying the popular tastes. His death signifies not only an ending of a mighty musician’s life, but also a loss of a spiritual person with a most beautiful soul.
Zhimu Wang, Economics, China.
On November 3, 2012, the 35th Annual John Coltrane Memorial Concert took place at Northeastern University with an ensemble including drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, as well as Carl Atkins, Bill Banfield, Consuelo Candelaria-Barry, Leonard Brown, Tim Ingles, John Lockwood, Andy McGhee, Ricardo Monzon, Bill Pierce, Emmitt G. Price, III and Stan Strickland, who all performed together as a big jazz ensemble to commemorate John Coltrane’s great compositions.
John Coltrane once said, “My music is the spiritual expression of what I am – my faith, my knowledge, my being … When you begin to see the possibilities of music, you desire to do something really good for people, to help humanity free itself from its hangups … I want to speak to their souls” (PBS). John Coltrane is an avant-garde jazz player, whose music is about his beliefs and bringing freedom to audiences. As a memorial concert of John Coltrane, this concert demonstrates Coltrane’s beliefs, with its diversity of music and legendary players.
The diversity of songs continues John Coltrane’s avant-garde style, and it frees audiences’ minds. The concert started with “Blue Train,” which was more like an original, however, the styles of songs became more and more different afterwards. In the third song, Impressions, Emmett G. Price III reorganized it by using electronic instruments. The unique sound of electronic guitar brought in rock and funk elements to the song. The drums and percussion played with strong beats and fast rhythms. Call-and-response between these two instruments made the song livelier, and the electronic guitar’s sliding notes made the music more powerful. Compared with the original version, Price’s arrangement kept the complicated notes and scales, but also added more other elements to the music.
In the last song of the first set, “Equinox,” the entire ensemble played together and Banfield conducted. Banfield showed his passion for the music and added different feelings to the song. In the second half of the concert, Candelaria-Barry on piano and Pierce on sax played “After the Rain” in a lyrical way. After several songs with strong beats, the soft notes made the audience feel comfortable and free. Moreover, like its name, “After the Rain,” people can feel fresh and clean. This song also emphasizes the different sides of John Coltrane’s music. After this song, “Resolution,” was arranged with Latin musical elements. Therefore, the concert did not simply play these pieces in the same way as before, but arranged them with more innovative elements such as electronic instruments. The nine different songs express Coltrane’s belief that music can have all kinds of possibilities, and the effects of the beautiful notes reveal the power of music.
The music reveals John Coltrane’ musical spirit, and so do the musicians. Andy McGhee, who had his eighty-fifth birthday at the concert night, received an award. Even at this age, he is still playing jazz and teaching jazz, and he does not want to leave the jazz world. His attitudes to music are the same as Coltrane’s. For McGhee, jazz is also a “spiritual expression” of himself, and what kind of person he wants to be. For the musicians who have been playing in this memorial concert since 1967, jazz has become part of their lives. With the music and musicians, this concert exemplified John Coltrane’s ideals.
The Sixties. Jazz in Time. Jazz: A Film by Ken Burns, 2012. Web. 11 Nov.2012.