John Coltrane on Practicing, Improvisation, Favorite Albums, and More

There’s little I can say about John Coltrane that hasn’t already been said.

But one thing that I don’t hear that often is what Coltrane said about himself.

After doing some poking around on the web, I can across this vibey Austin Powers-era interview with the man himself and a less-than-lovable interviewer. At any rate, Trane had some truly surprising viewpoints which I think you’ll find inspiring and kinda amazing.

Always Practicing

When asked about the relationship between his personality and his music, Trane acknowledged that critics had labeled him as an angry dude. Coltrane explained that the reason that his music might sound angry is because he plays “so many sounds.”

He continued, “I’m trying so many things at one time that I haven’t sorted them out. I have a whole bag of things I’m trying to work through and get the one essential…There are some set things I know, some devices, some harmonic devices that I know that will take me out of the ordinary path…but I haven’t played them enough and I’m not familiar enough with them yet to play the one single line to them, so I play all of them, trying to acclimate my ears…”

Giant Steps

In response to the reports that he trying to go for a more “beautiful sound” on the classic recording, Giant Steps. Coltrane clarified that although he’d like to continue working on beautifying the quality of his tone, what he really was going for was emphasizing the melodic aspect of his playing.

“Now I’m primarily interested in working what I know down into a more lyrical line – that’s what I mean by beautiful.”

His Favorite Things

When asked about his best recording, John hailed Blue Trane as his favorite overall. As far as quartet records went, he felt that Giant Steps (the most recent recording at the time of the interview) was his best, but then quickly interjects, “with the exception of maybe Soul Trane.”

As for his favorite tenor players, Coltrane responded “all of them.” When pressed further, Trane called out the great Sonny Rollins, adding that “in the formative days, there was Dexter Gordon.”

Working with Miles

Our friendly interviewer also inquired as to whether playing with Miles, in effect, limited him to a specific type of playing. However, Coltrane immediately chimed in the quite the opposite was true, and that Miles offered him complete musical freedom.

The Roots

The interviewer pointed out that Coltrane had a strong sense of tradition, to which the legend replied “I’d like to even make it stronger, I’d like to strengthen my roots, because I didn’t start at the beginning, and there’s a whole lot back there that all young musicians should have.”

As for whether he himself owned many of the records from before his time, John said that he doesn’t actually have many records from that era at the moment, but emphasized that he’d like to get more of them and include them in his repertoire.

Check out the YouTube video below to listen to the full interview.