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Coltrane At 90: Nine Days of Celebration and Music Starts Tomorrow!

In conjunction with Temple University Libraries, WRTI, PhillyCAM, Jazz Near You and other partners, Philadelphia Jazz Project will be hosting a 90th birthday celebration honoring prolific jazz artist John Coltrane. Philadelphia Jazz Project is offering nine days of free events across Philadelphia. The series of events is called “Coltrane At 90.”

“These Coltrane At 90 events are a result of a desire to do something important for such a significant figure at such a significant time. PJP, WRTI, PhillyCAM, Temple University Libraries, Phila Parks & Recreation, Fairmount Park Conservancy and others are coming together to celebrate John Coltrane and in celebrating him, we celebrate ourselves,” Homer Jackson, Director of the Philadelphia Jazz Club, said. “He was a neighbor. A man from simple means with great desire, great heart and immense dedication can and indeed did do great things.”

As previously reported in Spirit News, Coltrane moved to Philadelphia at age 18, which shaped his craft and career greatly, as Philly was a hub for jazz culture and its major players. Starting in 1952, he resided at 1511 N. 33rd St. in Strawberry Mansion, with his mother, aunt and cousin. In 1998, John W. Coltrane Society opened The John W. Coltrane Center next to the residence, which was declared a national landmark the next year.

Coltrane’s tenure in town has long been a pride point for Philadelphia.

As Philadelphia is a city steeped in history, it is significant that one of the 20th century’s greatest artists lived, worked and developed right here. He was a neighbor,” Jackson said. “It is also important that although he inspired many globally, he specifically inspired a generation of Philadelphians, who went on to further the music: Artists like Archie Shepp, McCoy Tyner, Norman Connors, Odean Pope, Earl and Carl Grubbs, James Mtume, Byard Lancaster, Alfie Politt and others. These artists have influenced and been sampled by legions of DJs, hip-hop producers and Neo-Soul artists.”

Jackson says that Coltrane’s impact can be detected in some of the spiritual and political music being made in Philadelphia today, but also in the city music scene’s grind.

“John Coltrane left the example of being that last dude at football practice who runs extra laps after the coach tells everyone to go home. Or the person at the gym who puts extra steel on the bar bells after everyone else has pooped out. John Coltrane put in that kind of extra work and he did it right here in Philadelphia and people who were here then, who saw it and knew him, testify to it,” he told Spirit News.

Something to keep in mind when examining just how special Coltrane’s success in music is that in his time, there were no Facebook events letting fans know he’d be playing Bourbon and Branch and no group texts to friends asking for their attendance at a basement show.

“There was no internet. There was no, or little TV coverage of this music, or these musicians. There was very little newspaper, or magazine coverage. Information was quite often shared by word of mouth… by the hip people,” said Jackson. “Philadelphia wasn’t in the south, but it was segregated. When these great musicians played at some White establishments, they couldn’t enter through the front door. Most of the places where you could see Jazz back then, were in the Black community. Bars and clubs in North Philly, South Philly, West Philly and Germantown.  With all of those places to play, there were lots of musicians to play them.”

Philadelphia, says Jackson, with its proximity to New York’s cultural hub of music, served as a springboard for many musicians who then packed up and left for the Big Apple. Coltrane was one of those who did just that.

Jackson is strong in his pride for Philadelphia arts and his passion for our culture of artists.

“As a Philadelphia artist, I know that we don’t always support, acknowledge, or educate the public about our own,” he said. “There is that popular quote about New York: If you make it there, you can make it anywhere. But for us in Philly it’s; if you make it here, it’s because you’ve made it everywhere. We must embrace our own. To celebrate our own, whether it be John Coltrane, Man Ray, Ben Franklin, Will Smith, Boyz II Men, Edgar Allan Poe, The Roots, Wilt Chamberlain, Jill Scott or whomever is an economic development and community self-esteem builder for a town that has been taught to believe that we are second class.”

As stated on Philadelphia Jazz Project’s website, the events are as follows:

Saturday, September 17th, 2016   –  12:00 noon

Jazz Walk – Giant Steps

Various Artists Are Participating

East Park Reservoir/Fairmount Park

33rd and Diamond Streets, Phila., PA 19121

The Jazz Walk is a one day, outdoor celebration to publicly acknowledge and celebrate John Coltrane’s 90th Birthday. It will present “six stations” or stops located around the East Park Reservoir in Fairmount Park featuring live music, information and refreshments.

Participating musicians include the Space Whale Ensemble, Eye2Eye Trio & Larry Price, Terry Lawson & Alan Nelson, Chris Stevens, Korey Riker, Josh Lee, Tim Price Trio & Michael Pedicin, Suzanne Burgess & Paul Jost, Sam Reed, Larry McKenna, Pete Chavez and many others.

Jazz Walk After Party  –  6:00pm

Pop-Up Beer Garden Hosted by Parks on Tap

Hatfield House

3300 Girard Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19130

Sunday, September 18th, 2016   –  4:30pm

Coltrane: Cookin’ & Sweatin’

Featuring Lucky Thompson All Star Group

New Barber’s Hall

1402 W Oxford St, Phila., PA 19121

Drummer Lucky Thompson and percussionist Karen Smithpresent a blazing concert exploring the vibes of the early 1950s, as John Coltrane developed into the artist we all know and love. This is about the birth ofHard Bop. The music gets funky and more soulful in that period. The house band featuresJim Holton – piano, Justin Sekelewski – bass, Josh Lee – tenor sax, Lauren Lark Jones & Michael Andrews – vocals. The spirit of dance is surely to be in the house. If the spirit moves…. then do what comes naturally.

Monday, September 19th, 2016   –  7:00pm

Mysterious Traveler 3 Concert Series

Featuring Chris Oatts – Saxophonist

Free Library of Phila Parkway Central Branch

1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

The first concert of the ongoing collaboration between PJP and TheFree Library of Philadelphia. This time, the featured artists explore elements from the Free Library’s collections and create new works inspired by them. Saxophonist Chris Oatts, visits the library’s Education, Philosophy & Religion Department and shares some Coltrane vibes as well. 

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016   –  8:00pm

Kulu Se Mama Tribute

Featuring Sonic 8

Conwell Dance Theater

1801 North Broad Street, 5th Floor Philadelphia, PA 19122

Sonic Liberation 8 presents a live performance of the music contained on John Coltrane’s 1965 album, “Kulu Se Mama.” This album serves a bridge in Coltrane’s development. It marks the beginning us his use of African percussion and also, his exploration of African spirituality. Featuing Kevin Diehl, Nichola Rivera, Tom Lowery and Ron Howerton – percussion; Matt Engle – bass,Veronica Jurkiewicz – viola, Elliot Levin – woodwinds and Mike Watson – bass clarinet.

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016   –  3:00pm

Coltrane Festival at the Temple Bell Tower

Polett Walk between 12th & 13th Streets, Phila., PA 19122

(Rain Location, Paley Library, 1210 Polett Walk)

All Coltrane, all afternoon at this pop-up musical performance by Temple University, Boyer School of Music students, faculty and local music professionals.

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016   –  8:00pm

Equinox Concert

Conwell Dance Theater

1801 North Broad Street, 5th Floor Philadelphia, PA 19122

A special event taking place on the Equinox and of course, celebrating Coltrane’s classic composition of the same name. Concert celebrating both the celestial equinox and John Coltrane’s fascination with science and celestial bodies. Featuring an all star ensemble with Alfie Pollitt – piano, Steve Beskrone – bass, Alan Nelson – drums, Victor North, Pete Chavez & Nasir Dickerson – tenor sax, Bobby Zankel – alto sax, Vince Turnbull – trumpet, Bob Blacksburg – trombone

Friday, September 23rd, 2016   –  12:00pm

Lunchtime Jam: Tribute to John Coltrane & Exhibit Opening

Church of the Advocate

1801 Diamond St, Philadelphia, PA 19121

Temple University Libraries and Charles L. Blockson Collection present an exhibition of John W. Mosley‘s Jazz photographs which opens at the Church of the Advocate with a celebration and musical performances. Mosley was a prolific and renowned Philadelphia photographer; his images are one of the Blockson Collection’s richest visual resources, documenting political, social, and cultural life of the African American community from the 1930s through the 1960.

Friday, September 23rd, 2016   –  6:00pm

Solo Saxophone Tribute & Marathon

Church of the Advocate

1801 Diamond St, Philadelphia, PA 19121

WRTI’s, J. Michael Harrison & PJP present a saxophone-centered tribute to John Coltrane. Starting at 6:00PM and running until midnight. The players would include a diverse spectrum of local, regional and international artists, such as James Carter,Bobby Zankel, Greg Osby, Sonny Fortune, Odean Pope, Rudresh Mahanthappa,Julian Pressley, Billy Harper, Mark Allen, Azar Lawrence, Sam Reed, Oli Mathisen,Douglas Ewart, James Brandon Lewis, Nasir Dickerson and others.

Saturday, September 24th, 2016   –  6:00pm

A Jam Supreme At Piazza

Featuring WorldTown Sound System & The Living Sample

The Piazza At Schmidts Commons

1001 N 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123

Tri-State Indie and Boom Room Studios present a joyous celebration of John Coltrane‘s music as interpreted by Hiphop, House and Techno musicians and DJs. Featuring WorldTown Sound System and The Living Sample along with special guest Jazz soloists. The two ensembles will explore A Love Supreme and other key Coltrane compositions.

Sunday, September 25th, 2016   –  7:00pm

Listening Party & Jam Session

The Fire

412 W Girard Ave, Phila, PA 19123

The Fire, Brewerytown Beats & Cratebeats Inc. present a culminating Jam Session/Beat Battle/Listening Party for the Coltrane Celebration. We’ll be listening to Trane recordings, checking out a crate diggers’ beat battle utilizing Coltrane recordings to create new Hiphop and Techno creations and then, we’ll open the stage to a Jam Session. It will be open to the public and musicians who performed in earlier events will be encouraged to come thru as well.


Ongoing Until December 23d, 2016

A Love Supreme Exhibition

Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection

Sullivan Hall, 1330 Polett Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19122

A Love Supreme is a special Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection exhibition commemorating Coltrane’s 90th birthday and his impact on the music of the Great Migration.

Saturday, September 24th, 2016  –  8:00pm

The Music of Jymie Merritt and the Forerunners

Painted Bride Art Center

230 Vine Street, Phila, PA 19106

Formed by Jymie Merritt in 1962, the Forerunners are a band that uses the mathematics of rhythm, as a tool. Making a pledge at John Coltrane‘s funeral to continue to forge ahead with creative music, the group has quietly been an incubator for Philadelphia’s avant-garde jazz creators. With an alumni which reads like a local Jazz who’s who, the group is now led by Jymie’s son, bassist Mike Merritt; a member of late-night TV host Conan O’Brien’s band. He’s joined by Odean Pope, Alan Nelson, Terry Lawson, Warren McLendon and Colmare Duncan.

From September 21st – 23rd, 2016

Drop-in Coltrane Listening Parties:

Free Library of Philadelphia

Parkway Central Branch/Music Department

1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

When Coltrane studied at the Ornstein School of Music, he made heavy use of the recordings and scores in the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Music Department. In honor of John Coltrane’s 90th birthday, the Music Department has set up special listening stations, so you and up to 4 friends can listen to our holdings of Coltrane on vinyl and reference CD. Scores will be on hand for the deep dive into Coltrane’s genius.

All events are free but must be registered for on EventBrite. Visit Philadelphia Jazz Project’s site for links and more information.


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