Sonic Grounding and Internalizing Structure: Themes of Continuity in the Music of John Coltrane

Jason Squinobal


(Opening paragraph): Examining the musical development of John Coltrane, one often gets a deep sense of change. Respected Coltrane scholar Lewis Porter characterizes Coltrane’s career by the “fact that he was constantly developing and changing.” To account for this perception of change, the tendency is to divide Coltrane's music into segmented stylistic periods. This allows us a greater understanding of Coltrane’s developmental building blocks, and the specific elements that he focused on while creating his music. For example, Eric Nisenson divides Coltrane’s work into “Early Coltrane” including his work with Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and his first recordings for Atlantic, a “Middle Period” including his work with Thelonious Monk and the early Impulse recordings, and finally a “Late Period” including Coltrane’s avant-garde albums.  In The Dawn of Indian Music in the West Peter Lavezzoli states “Coltrane’s music went through more evolutionary stages during his ten years as a solo recording artist than many musicians realize in a fuller lifetime.” Historical and bibliographical references including the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians also characterized Coltrane’s development as moving from one period to the next.

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