The Village Vanguard is a jazz club located at Seventh Avenue South in Greenwich Village, New York City. The club was opened on February 22, 1935, by Max Gordon. At first, it featured many forms of music, such as folk music and beat poetry, but it switched to an all-jazz format in 1957. By 1957, one commentator writes, Gordon reversed his policy, putting jazz at the top of the bill and letting the folknicks and the comics fill it out. Thus the Vanguard booked Miles Davis, Horace Silver, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Wynton Marsalis’, Gerry Mulligan, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Jimmy Giuffre, Anita O’Day, Charlie Mingus, Bill Evans (a regular), Stan Getz, Carmen McRae.
John William Coltrane (September 23, 1926 July 17, 1967) was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Working in the bebop and hard bop idioms early in his career, Coltrane helped pioneer the use of modes and was at the forefront of free jazz. He led at least fifty recording sessions and appeared on many albums by other musicians, including trumpeter Miles Davis and pianist Thelonious Monk. Over the course of his career, Coltrane's music took on an increasingly spiritual dimension, as exemplified on his most acclaimed albums A Love Supreme (1965) and Ascension (1966). He remains one of the most influential saxophonists in music history. He received numerous posthumous awards, including a Pulitzer Prize in 2007, and was canonized by the African Orthodox Church. His second wife was pianist and harpist Alice Coltrane. The couple had three children: John Jr. (19641982), a bassist; Ravi (born 1965), a saxophonist; and Oran (born 1967), also a saxophonist.
Coltrane was born in his parents' apartment at 200 Hamlet Avenue in Hamlet, North Carolina, on September 23, 1926. His father was John R. Coltrane and his mother was Alice Blair. He grew up in High Point, North Carolina and attended William Penn High School. Beginning in December 1938, his father, aunt, and grandparents died within a few months of one another other, leaving him to be raised by his mother and a close cousin. In June 1943, he moved to Philadelphia. In September, his mother bought him his first saxophone, an alto. He played clarinet and alto horn in a community band before beginning alto saxophone in high school. From early to mid-1945, he had his first professional work: a "cocktail lounge trio" with piano and guitar.
An important moment in the progression of Coltrane's musical development occurred on June 5, 1945, when he saw Charlie Parker perform for the first time. In a DownBeat magazine article in 1960 he recalled: "the first time I heard Bird play, it hit me right between the eyes".
To avoid being drafted by the Army, Coltrane enlisted in the Navy on August 6, 1945, the day the first U.S. atomic bomb was dropped on Japan. He was trained as an apprentice seaman at Sampson Naval Training Station in upstate New York before he was shipped to Pearl Harbor, where he was stationed at Manana Barracks, the largest posting of African American servicemen in the world. By the time he got to Hawaii in late 1945, the Navy was downsizing. Coltrane's musical talent was recognized, and he became one of the few Navy men to serve as a musician without having been granted musician's rating when he joined the Melody Masters, the base swing band. As the Melody Masters was an all-white band, however, Coltrane was treated merely as a guest performer to avoid alerting superior officers of his participation in the band. He continued to perform other duties when not playing with the band, including kitchen and security details. By the end of his service, he had assumed a leadership role in the band. His first recordings, an informal session in Hawaii with Navy musicians, occurred on July 13, 1946. He played alto saxophone on a selection of jazz standards and bebop tunes. He was officially discharged from the Navy on August 8, 1946. He was awarded the American Campaign Medal, AsiaticPacific Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
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