John Coltrane Statue, High Point
The eight foot tall bronze statue depicts jazz musician John Coltrane, one of High Point’s most distinguished citizens. He is holding his saxophone with his head tilted slightly down and to the right. The sculptor strove in this work to embody the strong, contemplative man whose music was said to move people to tears. The statue stands on a low black marble base with JOHN COLTRANE incised with white lettering. A storyboard stands a few feet away featuring a large photograph of Coltrane playing his saxophone and detailing highlights of his life in Highpoint and his musical career. A trapezoid shaped metal panel is a few feet away listing the financial contributors to the project.
Images: Rear view of the sculpture | Close-up view | Story Board | Financial support of the Coltrane Project | View towards High Point Theater
Storyboard, left side top: JOHN COLTRANE / HIGH POINT RESIDENT, WORLD RENOWNED JAZZ ARTIST
Left column: JOHN COLTRANE WAS BORN IN HAMLET, N.C. ON SEPT. 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, PRESIDENT ELDER OF / ST. STEPHEN AME 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 ALTO HORN.
WHILE AT WILLIAM PENN HIGH SCHOOL, JOHN PERFORMED IN THE BOYS’ / 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 AGE 16 IN 1943.
Center column: [Photo of piano] PROBABLY PURCHASED BY THE BLAIRS IN THE EARLY / 1920S, THIS UPRIGHT 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.
Right column: FINDING A PLACE IN THE MUSICAL SCENE / COLTRANE STUDIED MUSIC IN PHILADELPHIA. AFTER A BRIEF STINT / IN 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 COLTRANE 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.
Below three columns: “YOU HAVE A WHOLE BAND UNDER YOUR HANDS WITH A PIANO, AND IT’S THE BEST THING FOR CHORD FORMS.”
Lower edge of storyboard, running left to right: HIGHLIGHT OF / JOHN COLTRANE’S / LIFE IN / HIGH POINT
1926 / AS AN INFANT, JOHN / MOVED FROM HAMLET, / N.C. TO HIGH POINT WITH / HIS FAMILY. [Photo] THIRD GRADE PHOTO OF JOHN / COLTRANE (CIRCLED IN RED), / LEONARD STREET ELEMENTARY / SCHOOL. COURTESY OF THE / HIGH POINT HISTORICAL SOCIETY
1936 / DURING FEBRUARY, JOHN / PARTICIPATED IN “NEGRO / HISTORY WEEK” BY / ENTERING A SCRAPBOOK / CONTEST WHILE IN 5TH / GRADE AT LEONARD ST. / ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. / [Scrapbook photo] AT THE HIGH POINT MUSEUM
1939 / JOHN JOINED WARREN / STEELE’S COMMUNITY / BAND, PLAYING ALTO / HORN AND LATER CLARINET. [Photo of alto horn]
1940 / SAMUEL BUFORD, / PRINCIPAL OF WILLIAM / PENN HIGH SCHOOL, / STARTED THE SCHOOL / BAND WITH JOHN, A / FOUNDING MEMBER. [Photo of clarinet]
1938-1940 / JOHN’S FATHER, / GRANDFATHER AND UNCLE / DIED, 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. [Photo of saxophone]
1943 / JOHN MOVED TO / PHILADELPHIA WITH TWO / FRIENDS TO PURSUE A / MUSICAL CAREER. Right side of storyboard: 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 TRACT IS A LONG, / RHYTHMICALLY VARIEGATED BLUES SONG WITH A BROODING MINOR THEME THAT GRADUALLY SHIFTS TO / MAJOR DURING COLTRANE’S FIRST CHORUS. “BLUE TRAIN” REMAINS EXTREMELY POPULAR, AND DURING / A 1930 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 / 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 STYLE OF MUSIC CALLED BEBOP. / HE VENTURED INTO THE TERRITORY KNOWN AS MODAL JAZZ SHORTLY AFTERWARD.
“NAIMA” COMPOSED IN 1959 / THE BALLAD WAS COMPOSED BY COLTRANE AND NAMED AFTER HIS THEN-WIFE, JUNITA NAIMA / GRUBB. IT FIRST APPEARED ON THE ALBUM “GIANT STEPS '' AND IS NOTABLE FOR ITS USE OF A VARIETY / OF RICH CORDS OVER A BASS PEDAL. THE SONG IS MAINLY MADE UP OF 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, PHARAOH SANDERS AND DEREK TRUCKS, AMONG MANY OTHERS.
“IMPRESSIONS” RELEASED 1963 / RECORDED LIVE AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD OF NOV. 3, 1961, THE TRACT IS NOTABLE FOR / FOR FEATURING NEARLY FIFTEEN MINUTES OF COLTRANE SOLOING. THE FOCUS OF THIS RECORD IS ON / COLTRANE MORE THAN ANY OTHER ALBUM. THE MUSIC REFLECTS COLTRANE’S EVOLVING EMOTIONAL AND / MUSICAL RANGE AS HE EXPLORES JAZZ MODALITY, THE MUSIC OF INDIA, THE BLUES AND TRADITIONAL / SWEDISH FOLK SONG. THE ALBUM DEMONSTRATES THE BLENDING OF HIS DIVERSE INFLUENCES IN MUSIC.
“A LOVE SUPREME” RELEASED IN1965 / THE JAZZ ALBUM RELEASED BY JOHN COLTRANE’S QUARTET IS GENERALLY CONSIDERED TO BE AMONG / HIS GREATEST WORKS AS IT COMBINES 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 TRACTS: / 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 PERSONAL STRUGGLE FOR PURITY.
FOR MORE INFORMATION / THE HIGH POINT MUSEUM, LOCATED AT 1859 E. LEXINGTON AVE., HOUSES A / COLLECTION OF PERSONAL ITEMS RELATED TO COLTRANE’S LIFE IN HIGH POINT. PENN-GRIFFIN SCHOOL OF THE ARTS, ON EAST WASHINGTON DRIVE, IS THE FORMER WILLIAM / PENN HIGH SCHOOL THAT JOHN COLTRANE ATTENDED AND THE SITE OF ANNUAL JOHN / COLTRANE JAZZ WORKSHOP.
[Photo of piano keyboard] COLTRANE WROTE ON SEVERAL OF THE PIANO KEYS, NOTING / WHICH KEYS WERE “STICKING” AND WHICH WERE “OUT OF TUNE.”
Financial Contributors Panel: MAJOR FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTORS / TO THE COLTRANE PROJECT / CITY OF HIGH POINT / DOWNTOWN IMPROVEMENT / COMMITTEE / GUILFORD COUNTY / HIGH POINT / COMMUNITY FOUNDATION / HIGH POINT CONVENTION / AND VISITORS BUREAU / HIGH POINT MUSEUM / JOANNA BYRAN EASTER / SEPTEMBER 2006 / THANK YOU TO ALL THAT GAVE OF THEIR TIME / VISION TO HELP MAKE THIS PROJECT A REALITY.
City of High Point
September 20, 2006
35.955750 , -80.002530 View in Geobrowse
"History of John Coltrane." Friends of John Coltrane, http://www.friendsofjohncoltrane.com, (accessed December 15, 2015) Link
“For Coltrane Fan Statue Is Big Payoff,” News And Record (Greensboro, NC), September 22, 2006), (accessed December 11, 2015) Link
“Friends of John Coltrane,” Friends of John Coltrane, http://www.friendsofjohncoltrane.com, (accessed December 11, 2015) Link
“Jazz Legend John Coltrane,” High Point Museum, http://highpointmuseum.org, (accessed December 11, 2015) Link
“Statue Honors Jazz Great Coltrane,” The Dispatch (Lexington, NC), September 21, 2006, 2 (accessed December 11, 2015) Link
Bronze statue, marble base
The Downtown Improvement Committee with the High Point Museum
The September 20, 2006 unveiling date was in honor of Coltrane’s 80th birthday, three days prior. The ceremony included reading from an emailed note sent by musician Carlos Santana on how much Coltrane had influenced his own music. The unveiling was also featured with spots on CNN and “Good Morning America.’’ “I think we have just begun,” said committee member and music lover Joanna Easter. “This is, in my mind, is just the beginning of what we can do in the name of John Coltrane.” The news reports noted those in attendance included one of Coltrane’s cousins representing the family and one of the world’s biggest collectors of Coltrane memorabilia who flew in from Japan. A blind UNC-Chapel Hill student, who was writing his dissertation on Coltrane, also came to hear the presentation and touch the bronze saxophone.
Coltrane performed and recorded with Dizzy Gillespie, Johnny Hodges, Miles Davis, Thelonious
Monk and other jazz legends and is considered the greatest jazz saxophonist to ever live. In
1965, he was named Down Beat magazine’s “Jazzman of the Year.” He died of liver
cancer at age 40 on July 17, 1967 at the prime of his musical career.
The John Coltrane International Jazz and Blues Festival, held annually in High Point, was as an outgrowth of the efforts to erect the statue to Coltrane.
The statue is located on the northeast corner of High Point City Hall property at Commerce Avenue and South Hamilton Street.
The statue stands between the side walk and a parking lot, surrounded by trees, with benches on both sides.