Coltrane on Playing, Steadily, Steadily, Every Night

coltrane 65

SKF NOTE: Black Giants is a 1970 book collection of interviews and essays with/about some of the “New Jazz” prime movers, i.e. Elvin Jones, Archie Shepp, and John Coltrane.

Contributor Frank Kofsky‘s Septermber 1967 interview with John Coltrane has Coltrane’s view on his great quartet with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones vs the group Coltrane had after Elvin’s departure with Rashied Ali on drums and Emmanuel Rahim on percussion.

Also, John Coltrane’s thoughts on the benefits of musicians “playing, steadily, steadily, every night,” are worth highlighting. Coltrane using the examples of Elvin Jones with the Coltrane Quartet, and his, John Coltrane’s, own learning curve with Miles Davis’s First Great Quartet are worth remembering.



Black Giants Book Cover

Frank Kofsky: When I talked to you a couple of years ago…and I asked you if you would ever consider adding another horn to the group, you said probably the thing you would do is…you would add drums.

John Coltrane: I still feel so strongly about drums, I really do. I feel very strong about these drums. I experimented in it, but we didn’t have too much success. I believe it would have worked, but Elvin and McCoy [unintelligible]

FK: It doesn’t necessarily have to be two drums. It coud be drums and another rhythm instrument.

JC: I think so, too. I could come in different forms, shapes; I just don’t know how to do it, though.

FK: After all, the things that you’re using in the group now — shakers, bells, maracas — are rhythm instruments too. Not all rhythm instruments are drums.

JC: Oh, that’s true.

FK: …Sun Ra said…you hired Rashied Ali as a means of driving Elvin and McCoy out of the band….

JC: There was a thing I wanted to do in music, see, and I figured I could do two things: I could have a band that played like the way we used to play, and a band that was going in the direction the the one I have now is going in — I could combine these two, with these two concepts going. And it could have been done.

FK: How do you feel about having another horn in the group, another saxophone? Do you feel that it in any way competes with you or that it enhances what you’re doing?


Elvin Jones

JC: Well, it helps me. It helps me stay alive physically, man[.] [T]he pace I’ve been leading has been so hard, and I’ve gained so much weight, that sometimes it’s been a little hard physically. I feel that I like to have somebody there in case I can’t get that strength.

[T]here’s always got to be somebody with a lot of power. In the old band, Elvin had this power. I always have to have to have somebody there with it, you know?

Rashied has it, but it hasn’t quite unfolded completely; all he needs to is play.

FK: That was my impression too, that he really was feeling his way ahead in the music and didn’t have the confidence Elvin had. But then, of course, look how long Elvin was with you before….

JC: Elvin was there for a couple of years[.] [A]lthough Elvin was ready from the first time I heard him[.] [Y]ou know, I could hear genius there[.] [B]ut he had to start playing, steadily, steadily, every night….

With Miles [Davis] it took me around two and a half years, I think, before it started developing, taking the shape that it was going to take.

Source: John Coltrane Interview, by Frank Kofsky, The Black Giants, The World Publishing Company (1970)

About Scott K Fish
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