September 11, 2006


Here's to Another 80 Years (WILL FRIEDWALD, September 11, 2006, NY Sun)

There's a poem I was forced to read in high school that always makes me think of the saxophonist and composer John Coltrane (1926–67), whose 80th birthday is being commemorated in numerous celebrations across the city this month. In "Ithaca," the Greek poet Constantine P. Cavafy wrote, "When you set out on your journey to Ithaca/pray that the road may be long/full of adventures/full of knowledge."

Cavafy's point was that one should enjoy life's journey without worrying about the destination. That's especially relevant to Coltrane, who died long before he could have reached whatever final destination he might have had in mind for himself. His life and music were a continual, unending voyage of discovery.

Cavafy encouraged his fellow travelers to stop frequently and smell the roses, so to speak, but Coltrane, in his life as in his marathon saxophone solos, never even stopped for air. He was continually refining his sound and changing his approach; every time you turned around, he was coming out with something new. Better not blink or you might miss his next innovation, his next revelation.

Alas, Coltrane's road was not particularly long.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 11, 2006 12:00 AM

Although I knew the relevant dates, Friedwald points out something I never considered before: effectively, Coltrane's entire career (from the time he joined Miles until his death) was only 12 years. It's inconceivable that an artist could have that kind of output in such a short time...and even more amazing when you consider how many different styles he evolved through during that time.

Posted by: Foos at September 11, 2006 3:35 PM