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From a blog I wrote the other day. Food for thought.

For saxophonists, the music of John Coltrane becomes an inescapable influence. Whether you hate or love his music, there is no denying the presence of a constant penetration of honesty, intensity, and individualism. He shattered so many expectations about playing music that he has, in the minds of others, become the epitome of a musician's work ethic.

However, amidst the fascination of all of the performances and recordings, the countless hours practicing basic concepts and writing tunes, there is something so subtle to his persona that it often goes unnoticed. The way in which he physically held his saxophone illuminates so much power from a visual sense. Everything was in tune and universally strung together; his instrument in perfect balance, equanimous with how he percieved the world. It is a kind of mastery that takes close attention to detail to notice. He made the instrument a part of his body, because it was his way of channeling his thoughts to the world -- self-expression through pure sound.

This subtlety is something to notice more often.
 

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'I'll play it and tell you what it is later'. --Miles Davis
 

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BlueNote said:
[...] there is no denying the presence of a constant penetration of honesty[...][/i]

interesting that this does also occur to you.

for me, Coltrane´s playing always had something deeply HONEST to it.
it´s hard to name why that is so - just hear him play and you know it comes from within himself.
you won´t have to study him first to recognize that.

this omnipresent honesty is really a rare thing to hear in a player, even in the greats.

his playing almost never sounds ironic to me and he didn´t ever seem to play for another purpose than pure self-expression.
 

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ismail said:
his playing almost never sounds ironic to me and he didn´t ever seem to play for another purpose than pure self-expression.
I find this an interesting idea. I would agree that Coltrane's mature playing rarely if ever sounds "ironic". This is all the more surprising when you consider some of his choices of material: My Favourite Things, Greensleeves for example!! My way of describing this element in his art would be different from yours though. I don't think I can see (hear!) Coltrane's music as "pure self-expression" which I would take to be "an honest expression of one's whole person in artistic form". I would understand it as being an expression of "the spiritual self" or "the best of self" - a selection of those elements in human consciousness which are most godlike.
 

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by "self-expression", I meant:
expressing that which wants to be expressed, no matter if it´s the whole person or just parts of it.

I can´t tell which parts of his character coltrane has transported the most, but it seems to me that he just brought to the surface what automatically, intuitively came up within him.

it´s hard anyway to draw a concrete connection between mere soundwaves and certain parts of a person´s mind.
to me it´s more obvious to sense _in which way_ something that is played is connected to a human rather than _what exactly is connected to what?_

just because we can´t enter a person´s mind, but we can at least to an extent interpret how something is meant by analyzing facial expression, intonation etc.

(similar to spoken words: is it ironic? does it sound self-confident? is the voice unnatural? is it said/played to please others or for a different reason? ...and so on)
 

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I heard a story about Wayne Shorter going to Coltrane with the intention of getting some deep information from him.

Coltrane just said I've spent all these years practicing and playing to realize that it all just comes down to one thing, expressing myself.

That apparently messed Wayne up a bit as he was expecting something much deeper.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Ken said:
I heard a story about Wayne Shorter going to Coltrane with the intention of getting some deep information from him.

Coltrane just said I've spent all these years practicing and playing to realize that it all just comes down to one thing, expressing myself.

That apparently messed Wayne up a bit as he was expecting something much deeper.
Hah... interesting.

During Wayne's earliest years, he was incredibly influenced by Coltrane (who wasn't?). But like so many others, he had to cultivate his own voice. Coltrane was already in the clouds, so there was really no point in trying to follow him.

And what John said is very true. Shedding scales and chords enables you to play with detail, because you are opening up to the possibilities of sound. At a certain point, every chord, scale, and progression is the same; they have the same funtion but have subtle differences. From a lyrical perspective, it becomes an issue of when instead of what. The greatest discipline is knowing where to place a given a idea to better serve the string of ideas as a whole. I have noticed this about the masters. They each had their own way of directing your attention.
 

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"Damn the rules..."

There's a quote of Trane's I love: in response to a question about his playing (or maybe Dolphy's playing), he said "Damn the rules, it's the feeling that counts."

Now this comes from a man who practiced 20 hours a day, and literally invented many of the rules we play by today. Think of all the modern horn players who built and entire career on what Trane did in four bars of "Impressions"!

The trick is--and this is true of any serious human artistic expression--that in order to "damn the rules," you really need to master them. Going beyond the rules and letting the feeling come out is hard, relentless, continous, work.

What a great inspiration he has been!
 

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Personally, I dont see how one player is more "honest" then another player. If theyre trying to make music a career eventually down the road theyre going to reach a time when they question why theyre playing music and have to become completely honest with themselves.

As for they portrayl of deep honesty and what not in his playing, the guy was playing what he heard when he was playing the tune with the band IN THE MOMENT. And he got that way from tons of experience of playing with other people and having mentours on the gig as well as having a very deep understanding of 20th century harmony (cant forget the countless hours in the shed).

Im not trying to down play Coltranes genius and having a huge influence on the tenor saxophone, but I think you guys are putting his music on a pedastool

Musics alot like life. It's soooo abstract that you cant simply define it as this and that characteristic. It's something you have to experience and just do. The spiritual side is just one tiny slice of pie.
 

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namenotfound:

You are right, but you are getting me (us?) wrong when you say that we are trying to define music as "this" or "that".

It´s just that, in my perception, Coltrane´s playing is more "honest" than, say Cannonball Adderley´s style, whom I do not like less.

I´m not saying Coltrane as a whole was an honest person or that he only played things that were "true".

I can only say that what he plays sounds honest to me.

Of course, "honest" can mean a lot of things.

And of course, I can´t embrace every aspect of a music with just one attribute.

But when I hear Coltrane, it sounds to me as if someone was contemplating and directly revealing all of his thoughts. If this understanding of musical "honesty" resonates with some of you, I´m happy.

It´s just an associative way to describe pure sound and you certainly have to know some of Coltrane´s music beforehand to even get an idea of this "honesty".

I stand by my opinion, though I won´t try to convince anyone to think the same.

bye!
 

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ismail,

I get what your saying about the how the word honesty is just as a way to describe the series of soundwaves that came out of a mans hollowed out piece of metal.

I have no problem with that. Now I could be totally off but what it seems like is that some other people in this thread, as well as people Ive talked to, seem to have infered all these deep profound abstract truths into something, that when you study, isn't all that profound. It's actually a form of manipulation.

Its just one of my pet peeves, then again I probably misinterpreted the whole thing. Which wouldnt suprise me being that I wrote the post at around 5 am after a little bit of Saturday night activities. :D

So in closing, Coltranes the ****!
 

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:>

words are words.

but I like language, and when I hear something as inspired and inspiring as John Coltrane, I like to use language playfully to talk about what I´ve heard.

This becomes especially enjoyable with other musicians who can understand me without the need of detailed explanation or anything.

In such conversations, I often found it useful to have some good adjectives for the music you are talking about.

Charles Mingus - Earthy?
John Coltrane - Energetic? Honest?
Cannonball - Crispy? Playful?
 

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Discussion Starter #16
To me, "honesty" means constantly developing one's own voice and mirroring/reflecting through music your thoughts about the world at any given time... and yes, it can be subjective, because no two people percieve the world in the same way.

By all means, I do not want to follow Coltrane's footsteps musically speaking, but there are invaluable lessons to learn from as a player in your own right about what it means to do justice to a music form. He knew exactly was he was doing, exaustively working through the traditional aspect of jazz before moving forward. I may not like every idea that he played, but I can tell that he was always searching for something new to work with in the creative process that strengthened his ability to speak without the boundaries of an art form's expectations standing in the way. It is the notion that one should never settle, but be involved fundamentally and creatively so long as you play. Sonny Rollins is still doing that today.

Everyone has a different philosophy on life. Coltrane was certainly not the only one who was "honest", but his reaction to music and the band members that he added caught the attention of the music world. Some call it destiny, some say it is just what happened. I believe that he was doing what everyone should strive for -- walking your own path despite being pressured into being someone else else. That doesn't just apply to music, but to life.

The temptation is to walk his path. But in theory, it should be the opposite. The sooner you catch that, the better.
 

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I think Im in the Miles Davis Camp. I don't like talking about music (or life), unless its about theory or some particular aspect (ie. tone, phrasing, ideas etc) because the conversation imediately becomes too vauge. It all becomes a matter of opinion and interpretation.

To simply state that Coltrane played with honesty, is kind of just like saying that a clean desk is good. (the same thing with this person has his own voice) Its true but its just some abstract statement that doesnt have some grounded reason.

Its like your giving a dinner and include everything but the meat and potatoes.

Blue note: No offense, but your definition of honesty doesnt seem to have a solid reason. Continuing to search for ones own voice is something that naturally happens the more you play.

You become who you are by interacting with other people. When you interact with other people you naturally imitate the behaviors that you observed. You also behave slightly different depending on who your hanging out with or what your doing.

To translate it into music, you find your own voice by imitating other players and from who you play with. As you know you probably play a slightly different way when you play with bass player and drummer X then with Bass player and drummer y.

I guess I missed one of your points in your original post, that you have to pay attention to the subtleties.

Its also pretty hard to translate all your views on the world into your playing. Nobody can do that. And if you can, since music is so abstract and open to interpretation, that your audience might totally misinterpret what your doing and give it some meaning thats totally different and not what you were going for.

I guess if you were writing political lyrics for a song then you could get your message out. But then again only a small amount of people would listen.

btw I checked out your myspace page and your soundin good man.

ismail: can you describe definiton of honesty?

As good and necessary as language is, it definitely has its bad sides to, or it might just be the people that use it have the fault.
 

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@namenotfound

Well, I know where you coming from, but you have to differentiate between:

1) conversations in which seemingly vague expressions work and contribute, maybe no further explanation is needed

2) conversations in which everything is vague and you don´t get your point across

my question: do you really just want to talk about music in a theoretical way?
don´t you have a certain desire sometimes to talk about music?
and isn´t it true that sometimes you can just talk in a not too concrete way but still have a solid conversation?

of course, I´m with you when you say that things have to be reasoned.

if anyone needs an explanation of what I think about "honesty" in Coltrane´s playing, read the above...

And I can´t give a better definition of honesty than a dictionary, but were not talking "dictionary honesty" here anyway...

bye!
 

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Interesting, btw, how this discussion turned from certain aspects of Coltrane´s playing to the limitations of language and so on...
 
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