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"When you begin to see the possibilities of music,
you desire to do something really good for people."
Who We Are...The john Coltrane House 501c3
National Historic Landmark
Our mission and history...
The John Coltrane House is a non-profit organization made up of teachers, preservationists, historians, and musicians. Our mission is to preserve and restore John Coltrane’s National Historic Landmark home in Philadelphia and establish it as an open to the public historic house museum and center for Coltrane and jazz studies and related performance and programming activities.
Our focus is heritage conservancy through historic preservation. In preserving the physical property of John Coltrane’s National Historic Landmark Philadelphia home, we, thereby, preserve his legacy of extraordinary creative achievement and his example of black American artistic brilliance that has contributed so richly and so fundamentally to the national culture and identity. The John Coltrane House National Historic Landmark is essential to Coltrane’s story as a person and as a musician.
Over the past two years, we have been working to educate the city, and the world beyond, about Coltrane’s vital Philadelphia story, for which the house is a repository and testimonial. After Coltrane left the South at 16, Philadelphia became his hometown. We have presented promotional music concerts to raise awareness and bring people to the house. We have hosted Preservation in Progress guided house tours to show the public that the Coltrane House is still beautiful and wonderfully intact for its one hundred ten years. We have made the house available to musicians who are honored to be in the place where Coltrane cultivated his artistry. But the house is much in need of repair and restoration, which is why we formed our organization.
John Coltrane- A Philadelphia Story...
Coltrane's Philadelphia home is of the highest importance among the many worthy Coltrane memorials worldwide because Philadelphia is the most important focus of Coltrane’s development as a virtuoso musician. Jazz scholars and critics uniformly agree that it was Philadelphia's rich and varied black jazz milieu in the 1940’s that nurtured and schooled the novice teen reed player just up from the South. They also agree that this tutelage was both indispensable to and inextricable from there mark able saxophonist he became. At the time, the country’s most accomplished and innovative black jazz musicians met up, performed, and hung out in Philadelphia. Also, in Philadelphia Coltrane took advantage of the excellent training in traditional music available; he took saxophone lessons and studied music theory and composition. In his highly regarded biography of John Coltrane, music scholar Lewis Porter remarks, “Coltrane had unwittingly landed in the perfect place to develop his art” when he moved to Philadelphia from North Carolina in 1943.
In 1952,at the age of twenty-six, with the benefit of a G.I. loan, John Coltrane bought for himself, his mother, his aunt and his first cousin, the North33 Street property. It was a big, beautiful house, built for a well-to-do middle class at the turn of the 19 century and a huge step up from the cramped quarters in a deteriorating area of town where the family had been living. Coltrane owned and lived in this home longer than any other during his legendary career as a jazz saxophonist and music composer. Also, it was during the years that he resided in the North 33 Street home that Coltrane, as a musician, became identifiably Coltrane.
When Coltrane left Philadelphia to further his career in New York City in 1958, the North 33 Street house anchored and provided continuity to his life. This remained so even after, as a prosperous established musician with celebrity status, he purchased a home on Long Island in 1964. Coltrane’s mother, Alice Blair Coltrane, remained in the Philadelphia home he had bought for the family during his lean early years as a rising jazz star until her death in 1977. Coltrane’s first cousin, Cousin Mary, then acquired and resided in the home until she sold it in 2004 with the request that it remain the tribute to John Coltrane that she had maintained during her years as owner by establishing the John Coltrane Cultural Society.
The John Coltrane House organization is pleased to continue and enlarge on the efforts of Cousin Mary (Mary Alexander). Our first task is to restore and preserve the physical structure of the House. Indispensable to that task, is to promote the crucial importance of the House to African American history, Philadelphia history, jazz history and jazz studies. We welcome and urge the support of Coltrane fans, jazz and serious music fans, arts aficionados, historic preservation enthusiasts, and arts, civic, and philanthropic organizations.
ITS EXTRAORDINARY LEGACY
“During the year1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening, which was to lead me to a fuller, richer, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music. I feel this has been granted through His grace. All praise to God.”
--John Coltrane/from the liner notes of A Love Supreme
The story is now legendary, having been passed word of mouth from the late 1950’s through the 60’s and after by thousands of Coltrane and jazz fans as well as recorded in numerous biographies. How in 1957, Coltrane retreated for five days to a second floor bedroom in his Philadelphia home taking nothing into his body but water. During his seclusion, he experienced the spiritual awakening that led him to see his music as a means of honoring the Supreme. Coltrane’s spiritual awakening coincided with, through the five days of abstinence, overcoming the heroin addiction that had plagued him. He emerged from seclusion, no longer hindered by drug dependency, with definite and greater purpose for his life and his music, intensely motivated to fulfill a divinely obligated destiny.
The 1957 spiritual awakening Coltrane experienced on N. 33 Street in Philadelphia quickly altered existing jazz concept and performance. According to one critic, Coltrane was impelled to create a distinct, probing, yet lyrical, sound and to invent a theory about the aesthetics of “free” or highly atonal jazz, connecting this type of jazz with a quest for spirituality, a holy language or vision. Furthermore, that Coltrane single handedly transformed jazz from its media imposed identity of being the ultimate in “cool” or “avant-garde” for those “in the know” in the 1950s to something --romantically, even divinely, artistic, inspired by something pure.--
The John Coltrane House in Philadelphia stands as tangible testimony to Coltrane’s spiritual awakening, which he attributed to divine grace. Thus, it becomes holy ground and a material transport to the wellspring of Coltrane’s resulting musical vision. After he moved out of the city in 1958, through the last year of his life, Coltrane returned often to his Philadelphia home for inspiration, sometimes staying for days. Coltrane’s Philadelphia home was the one he owned and lived in the longest, to which he remained emotionally and spiritually anchored until his death in 1967.
It was while living on N. 33 Street that Coltrane honed his renowned virtuoso skills as a musician and developed his distinct and signature sound. While living here, Coltrane’s first three albums were released, which included the redoubtable Blue Train, a hard bop classic that remains a perennial favorite. The John Coltrane House National Historic Landmark is the repository of an extraordinary legacy of inspiration, accomplishment, healing, and refuge for one of the 20 century’s most influential musicians. it is the mission of the John Coltrane House organization to preserve the building and open it to the public as a house museum.
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