“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
High Point in Guilford County, North Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)

John Coltrane

High Point Resident, World-Renowned Jazz Artist

John Coltrane Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), June 17, 2021
1. John Coltrane Marker
Growing Up in High Point
John Coltrane was born in Hamlet, North Carolina, on September 23, 1926. He was an infant when his family moved to High Point. For most of his youth Coltrane lived with extended family in his grandparents' house on Underhill Street. His father owned a dry cleaning and tailor shop. His grandfather was Reverend William Wilson Blair, presiding elder of St. Stephen A.M.E. Zion Church.

Music filled the air in the house on Underhill. His father played the ukulele and violin. His mother was a trained singer and often played the piano. When he was about 12, young Coltrane joined a community band started by his scout troop leader and played the clarinet and saxophone.

While at William Penn High School, John performed in the Boy's Chorus and joined the newly formed school band. Tragedy struck early in the young musician's life. His father, grandfather and uncle died within a few years of each other. Coltrane found solace in practicing his music. He graduated at the age of 16 in 1943.

Finding a Place in the Musical Scene
Coltrane studied music in Philadelphia. After a brief stint in

John Coltrane Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), June 17, 2021
2. John Coltrane Marker
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the Navy he met, performed and recorded with Dizzy Gillespie, Johnny Hodges, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and other legends. Coltrane, like other musicians of the time, became addicted to heroin and alcohol. In 1957 when John overcame his heroin addiction, his music took on a more spiritual aspect. Coltrane later wrote,
"I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life."

During the last ten years of his life, Coltrane's music reached new levels and unprecedented virtuosity and emotional depth. In 1965, he was named Down Beat magazine's "Jazzman of the Year." He was just reaching his prime when he died of liver cancer on July 17, 1967 at the age of 40.

"You have a whole band under your hands with a piano and its the best thing for working on chord forms."

Coltrane's Legacy
John Coltrane redefined jazz. His early performances were conventional and soft compared with the raw, spiritual improvisations of his later years. His style has influenced generations of artists.

Blue Train Released in 1957
Considered by many to be Coltrane's first "true" solo album, it is the first he recorded featuring musicians and songs entirely of his choosing. The title track is

John Coltrane statue nearby image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), June 17, 2021
3. John Coltrane statue nearby
a long, rhythmically variegated blues with a brooding minor theme theme that gradually shifts to major during Coltrane's first chorus. Blue Train remains extremely popular, and during a 1960 interview Coltrane described it as his favorite album of his own up to that point.

Giant Steps Released in 1960
Coltrane's second album was recorded by the Atlantic label. It was the first time that Coltrane composed all of the pieces on a recording. The recording exemplifies his harmonic improvisation and melodic phrasing that came to be known as sheets of sound. The album is also considered to be Coltrane's farewell to the style of music called bebop. He ventured into the territory known as modal jazz shortly afterwards.

Naima Composed in 1959
This balad was composed by Coltrane and named after his then-wife Juanita Naima Grubb. It first appeared on the album Giant Steps and is notable for its use of a variety of rich chords over a bass pedal. The song is mainly made up of a slow, restrained melody, though there is also a brief piano solo. One of his most famous songs, Naima has since become a jazz standard, played by Santana and John McLaughlin, Maynard Ferguson, the New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble, Pharoah Sanders and Derek Trucks, among many others.

Impressions Released

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Recorded live at the Village Vanguard on November 3, 1961; the title track is notable for featuring nearly fifteen minutes of Coltrane's soloing. The focus on this record is on Coltrane, more than any other album. The music reflects Coltrane's evolving emotional and musical range where he explores jazz modality, the music of India, the blues and a traditional Swedish folk song. The album is a reflection of his blending diverse influences in music.

A Love Supreme Released 1965
This jazz album released by John Coltrane's quartet is generally considered to be among his greatest works as it combined the hard bop sensibilities of his early career with the free jazz style he adopted later in his life. The album is a four-part suite, broken up into tracks; Acknowledgement (which contains the famous mantra that gave the suite its name), Resolution, Pursuance and Psalm. It is intended to be a spiritual album, broadly representative of a personal struggle for purity.

For More Information
• The High Point Museum, located at 1859 East Lexington Avenue, houses a significant collection of personal items related to Coltrane's life in High Point.
• Penn-Griffin School for the Arts, on E. Washington Drive, is the former William Penn High School where John Coltrane attended and site of the

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annual JOhn Coltrane Jazz Workshop.

Highlights of Coltrane's Life in High Point
1926: As an infant, John moved from Hamlet, N.C. to High Point with his family.
1937: During February John participated in "Negro History Week" by entering a scrapbook contest while in 5th grade at Leonard Street Elementary School.
1939: John joined Warren Steele's community band, playing alto saxophone and later clarinet.
1940: Samuel Burford, principal of William Penn High School started the school band with John a founding member.
1939-41: John's father, grandfather and uncle die leaving a void in John's life he would fill with music.
1943: John's classmates voted him the "most musical" of his graduating class.
1943: John moved to Philadelphia with two friends to pursue a musical career.

Probably purchased by the Blairs in the early 1920s, this upright player piano was in the house on Underhill Street and was often played by his mother as she sang religious songs. John later moved the piano to his home in Philadelphia where he is known to have used the piano to compose and arrange. This piano is now at the High Point Museum.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansArts, Letters, Music. In addition, it is included in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AME Zion) Church series list. A significant historical date for this entry is July 17, 1967.
Location. 35° 57.35′ N, 80° 0.15′ W. Marker is in High Point, North Carolina, in Guilford County. Marker is at the intersection of South Hamilton Street and East Commerce Avenue, on the right when traveling north on South Hamilton Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 201 S Hamilton St, High Point NC 27260, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A different marker also named John Coltrane (here, next to this marker); Willis Howard "Willis" Slane (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); Woolworth Students' Sit-in (about 700 feet away); February 11, 1960 (about 700 feet away); Myrtle Furr Hayworth Barthmaier (approx. 0.2 miles away); Southern Furniture Exposition Building (approx. 0.2 miles away); Sewell Farlow Store (approx. 0.2 miles away); Perley Albert "P.A." Thomas (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in High Point.

Credits. This page was last revised on June 20, 2021. It was originally submitted on June 20, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 187 times since then and 56 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on June 20, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.

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Apr. 2, 2023