"So much has been written about how far Trane stretched the improvisatory dimensions of jazz that I would prefer to focus on the extraordinary spirit that powered all that searching. Whenever we talked during his last years, Trane would always bring the conversation to the unyielding need he felt to keep going as deeply as he could into his feelings, his very soul. He often used the word "cleansing," for what he sought was an order of inner peace that transcended passing worries and vexations. But he knew there was no easy way to get there - one had to continually scour oneself, confront oneself, and in the process try to connect with the unity at the source of all life. It was this concept of going through stages of self-knowledge which accounted in part for his interest in Eastern religion and philosophy. And it was the fulfilling of this concept in his music that accounted for its seizing, spiraling intensity and also for its passages of uncommon calm and grace.For all the unsparing passion and necessary tension in his music. Coltrane in the last years was an exceptionally gentle, patient man to talk to. There was also in him a huge generosity of spirit. Many young musicians have witnessed to the encouragement he gave them, the time he would take with them. And although I expect he was dissatisfied with whatever stage he had reached-always needing to look deeper and higher - I can say that he was one of the exceedingly few men I've known who did not feel in competition with anyone, who bore no malice to anyone, and who lived the conviction that man is perfectible, that man has only just begun to realize his capacities to open up himself and the world through satyagraha - truth force."- Nat Hentoff, excerpt from liner notes to The Best of JohnColtrane
I was blown away by Nat Hentoff's liner notes. I read them. I looked up. I said "Wow..." several times. Out loud. By myself.
|Heaven and Earth by Anselm Kiefer|
I don't know John Coltrane's music very well. But I do love it. I know that I love this album. I know that I connect to his music. I hear the artist in this music. I love that there are no words, but there is a story being told. With every note. With every absence of a note.
I wonder, does any great artist set out to be an influence? I doubt it. S/he sets out to make music. Or perhaps, more to the point, s/he sets out to do what s/he was driven to do, what s/he had to do.
Many of the artists I admire most have a common quality. The common quality is not on the surface of their work. They don't seem to be the same "type" of artist. But when I learn more about the artist's path, I discover that they are all making art their own way. Their path is personal and unorthodox.
Visual artists including Anselm Kiefer, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse. Theatre artists such as Robert Wilson, Julie Taymor, Mark Rylance. I am in awe of their artistic voice. It's authentic. In music, The Smiths, Radiohead, Sufjan Stevens, Built to Spill. The voices of these artists. I don't hear them trying to sound like or look like anything or anyone.
How can we strive to be our authentic artistic selves? To be bold. To be confident. To be authentic. That's the goal.