Writings about Music

Knight and Day: Music Before and After John Coltrane

John and Alice Coltrane

Wonderful to learn how pianist Joe Knight and drummer Ike Day were the sources for the Mr. Knight and Mr. Day tracks on the sublime Coltrane Plays the Blues album. It was a number of years ago how I realized bassist Steve Davis was elemental for some of the absolute greatest efforts by the tenor and soprano saxophonist, including Coltrane Plays the Blues, My Favorite Things, and Coltrane's Sound. Indeed, Coltrane's Sound includes the track I've often described as my absolute favorite by John, Equinox; an opinion I shared with Phil Schaap while joining him in the WKCR FM booth for some hours during a John Coltrane birthday marathon broadcast. Subsequently, I heard Phil introduce Equinox as a favorite among musicians.

The way Steve Davis, a fellow Pisces, has seemingly disappeared from jazz history is appalling given his momentous, irreplaceable contributions. I wasn't even able to find a photo of him with John Coltrane! The vibe John, Elvin Jones and McCoy Tyner had with Steve is my favorite. My intent is to write more about Steve another time.

A quote from the fascinating J.C. Thomas book about John Coltrane especially resonated with myself: "The pleasure which he receives from all beauty, the consolation which art affords, the enthusiasm of the artist, enable him to forget the cares of life and repay him for the suffering that increases in proportion to the clearness of consciousness, and for this desert loneliness among a different race of men." (Arthur Schopenhauer)

In the process of transforming jazz, rock, and Western composition, John Coltrane was instrumental in helping prepare us to begin appreciating what became the central love of his musical life - Indian classical music. Ravi Shankar, Alla Rakha and Bismillah Khan were his personal favorite artists from this discipline. And, like Steve Davis, I intend to write more about John Coltrane and his majestic music and influence.

My title here, Knight and Day, does sum up what John Coltrane achieved in terms of Western music before and after his contributions, of course.

- Michael Robinson, July 2021, Los Angeles


© 2021 Michael Robinson All rights reserved


Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and musicologist who has been a lecturer at UCLA, Bard College and California State University.