John Coltrane’s Finest Hour

Stanley Crouch in Slate:

060309_mb_coltranetnJazz is still the most original aesthetic form to emerge from the United States, but, after the big-band era of the 1930s, most jazz took place in small rooms that held about a hundred people. The sound systems were usually bad, the waitresses obnoxious, the drunks a pain in the backside, and there was little regard for the players as anything more than lower-rung entertainers. If the music was strong enough, however, the audience would quiet down or shout approval when something especially swinging was played. Unlike in today’s more polished venues, the participation of the listeners was not forbidden, and people weren’t expected to keep absolutely quiet until a song ended.

That is how it was when John Coltrane came to prominence and recorded some of his finest work in performance during the 1960s. Coltrane died in 1967 and has since achieved a mythic status that obscures the fact that he redefined jazz for the better and for the worse.

More here.