Jazz Saxophonist John Coltrane Was Ahead of his Time and Continues to Inspire Musicians 50 years after his Death

John Coltrane (1926-1967) is considered one of the most influential jazz artists of all time. As both a composer and sax player, Trane is still revered in jazz circles to this day and remains influential in other genres of music. The term “sheets of sounds” was dubbed to describe Coltrane’s innovative style of playing several notes at the same time.
Trane was a prolific artist; his body of work includes 50 albums as a band leader and countless recordings with other renowned jazz musicians such as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk. Another side to John Coltrane was his live performances, his ability to improvise and flawlessly play several musical styles made each of his shows unique.

The fact that John Coltrane received so much recognition decades after his death is a good indicator that he was truly ahead of his time. Here are some of the acknowledgements bestowed upon Trane since his death: a Pulitzer Prize special citation award, an induction in the Downbeat Jazz Hall of Fame, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award, a Grammy for Best Jazz Solo Performance, and canonization by the African Orthodox Church.

Here are 35 John Coltrane quotes to inspire revolution through evolution:


“Invest yourself in everything you do. There’s fun in being serious.” – John Coltrane


“One positive thought produces millions of positive vibrations.” – John Coltrane

3. “I want to be a force for real good. In other words, I know there are bad forces. You know, I know that there are forces out here that bring suffering to others and misery to the world, but I want to be the opposite force. I want to be the force which is truly for good.” – John Coltrane


“The real risk is not changing. I have to feel that I’m after something. If I make money, fine. But I’d rather be striving. It’s the striving, man, it’s that I want.” – John Coltrane


“I start in the middle of a sentence and move both directions at once.” – John Coltrane


“I think music is an instrument. It can create the initial thought patterns that can change the thinking of people.” – John Coltrane


“My music is the spiritual expression of what I am: my faith, my knowledge, my being.” – John Coltrane


“Damn the rules, it’s the feeling that counts.” – John Coltrane


“I’d like to point out to people the divine in a musical language that transcends words. I want to speak to their souls.” – John Coltrane


“There is never any end… There are always new sounds to imagine; new feelings to get at. And always, there is the need to keep purifying these feelings and sounds so that we can really see what we’ve discovered in its pure state.” – John Coltrane


“I would like to bring to people something like happiness. I would like to discover a method so that if I want it to rain, it will start right away to rain. If one of my friends is ill, I’d like to play a certain song and he will be cured; when he’d be broke, I’d bring out a different song and immediately he’d receive all the money he needed.” – John Coltrane


Don’t ever get so big or important that you cannot hear and listen to every other person.” – John Coltrane


“I believe that men are here to grow themselves into the best good that they can be – at least, this is what I want to do.” – John Coltrane


“When you are playing with someone who really has something to say, even though they may be otherwise quite different in style, there’s one thing that remains constant. And that is the tension of the experience, that electricity, that kind of feeling that is a lift sort of feeling. No matter where it happens, you know when that feeling comes upon you, and it makes you feel happy.” – John Coltrane


“You can play a shoestring if you’re sincere. ” – John Coltrane


“I never even thought about whether or not they understand what I’m doing . . . the emotional reaction is all that matters as long as there’s some feeling of communication, it isn’t necessary that it be understood.” – John Coltrane


“All of the technique doesn’t matter… only if the feeling is right.” – John Coltrane


“That is one of the main causes of this arrogance: the idea of power. Then you lose your true power which is to be part of all, and the only way you can be part of all is to understand it. And when you don’t understand, you have to go humbly to it. You don’t go to school and say, ‘I know what you’re going to teach me’.” – John Coltrane


“If you’re bourgeois, money is it. It’s all the questions and all the answers. Ain’t no E-flat or color blue, only $12.98 or $1,000. If it isn’t money, it isn’t nothing.” – John Coltrane


“The main thing a musician would like to do is to give a picture to the listener of the many wonderful things he knows of and senses in the universe.” – John Coltrane


“When you begin to see the possibilities of music, you desire to do something really good for people.” – John Coltrane


“Keep a thing happenin’ all throughout.” – John Coltrane


“There are so many things to be considered in making music. The whole question of life itself… I know that I want to produce beautiful music, music that does things to people that they need.” – John Coltrane


“Working with Monk brought me close to a musical architect of the highest order. I felt I learned from him in every way–through the senses, theoretically, technically. I would talk to Monk about musical problems, and he would sit at the piano and show me the answers just by playing them. I could watch him play and find out the things I wanted to know. Also, I could see a lot of things that I didn’t know about at all.” – John Coltrane


“Change is inevitable in music – things change.” – John Coltrane


“The reason I play so many sounds, maybe it sounds angry, is because I’m trying so many things at one time, you see? I haven’t sorted them out. I have a whole bag of things that I’m trying to work through and get the one essential.” – John Coltrane


“All a musician can do is to get closer to the sources of nature, and so feel that he is in communion with the natural laws.” – John Coltrane


“The first time I heard Bird play, it hit me right between the eyes.” – John Coltrane


“Sometimes I wish I could walk up to my music as if for the first time, as if I had never heard it before. Being so inescapably a part of it, I’ll never know what the listener gets, what the listener feels, and that’s too bad.” – John Coltrane


“Considering the great heritage in music that we have – the work of the giants of the past, the present, and the promise of those who are to come – I feel that we have every reason to face the future optimistically.” – John Coltrane


“I think the majority of musicians are interested in truth.” – John Coltrane


“Any time you play your horn, it helps you. If you get down, you can help yourself even in a rock ‘n’ roll band.” – John Coltrane


“I think I know what it is but don’t ask me to play it.” – John Coltrane


“Sometimes I think I was making music through the wrong end of a magnifying glass.” – John Coltrane


“Working with Monk is like falling down a dark elevator shaft.” – John Coltrane

Author: Phil Zavackis


Phil Zavackis is a freelance writer living in Toronto. He has recently finished a screenplay titled ‘105 Degrees & Rising’, which is about the Fall of Saigon in 1975. https://www.quora.com/profile/Phil-Zavackis/blogs