The Church of John Coltrane

A jazz legend, canonized by the African Orthodox Church.

logo
Ultimate Guitar
The Church of John Coltrane
14
Faith is a sensitive subject. Some people find it difficult to live without religious beliefs, some don’t. It usually seems like it’s not that easy to find people with a similar belief system to your own. But in reality, if you’re passionate enough the associates will find you. A good example of such passion are Archbishop Franzo Wayne King and Reverend Mother Marina King.

The spouses first saw Coltrane perform in San Francisco in 1965, and they were so blown away by the experience that they formed some progressive beliefs. The couple said they saw a vision of the Holy Ghost when Coltrane came on stage, and they refer to that moment as their “Sound Baptism.” Shortly after, The Kings founded a small congregation that preached the gospel of Coltrane’s music (in particular, his 1965 album “A Love Supreme”), and focused on meditation, prayer, and fasting. It was also involved with community organizing groups and the Black Panthers. The services were (and still are) centered around live jazz performances.

The group underwent multiple iterations in the ‘70s. It changed many names (Yardbird Temple, Yardbird Vanguard Revolutionary Church of the Hour, One Mind Temple Evolutionary Transitional Church of Christ, etc.) before it eventually settled down with its current name, Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church.

Archbishop Franzo Wayne King said:

"From the very beginning of the church, we wanted everybody to know about this evolved, transcendent being that came in this time and this age with a new testament message that wasn't about division, and as Coltrane would say, 'living clean and doing right."
Surprisingly, the Kings were able to canonize Coltrane when their church became a part of the African Orthodox Church in 1982 (only in eleven years after its founding.) For comparison, it takes at least a century to canonize a person for a regular Christian church.
Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church was based at 351 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, until 2006, and then moved to 2097 Turk Street. The walls display Byzantine-style portraits of Saint John Coltrane, as well as Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and Moses. The church has its own house band called Ohnedaruth. Services consist of reading Bible passages and hearing sermons interspersed with performances from “A Love Supreme.”
Coltrane himself, whose grandfathers were both Reverends at churches in North Carolina, was raised, Christian. For a long time he struggled with heroin and alcohol addictions, yet in 1957 he experienced a spiritual awakening that changed his life. He became sober, and aimed to use music to make people happy through the power of God, starting with his landmark album “A Love Supreme.”

Liner notes to "A Love Supreme":

In the year of 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening, which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. As time and events moved on, I entered into a phase which is contradictory to the pledge and away from the esteemed path. But thankfully now, through the merciful hand of God, I do perceive and have been fully reinformed of his omnipotence. It is truly a love supreme.
Archbishop Franzo Wayne King once said:
"When you look at the composition of titles and the sequence in which John has them laid out, we say that there's formula in that album. When he says, 'Acknowledgements, resolutions and pursuance,' it's like saying, 'Father, Son and Holy Ghost.' It's like saying, 'Melody, harmony and rhythm.' In other words, you have to acknowledge and then you resolve and then you pursue, and the manifestation of it is a love supreme."
YouTube preview picture

16 comments sorted by best / new / date

    ugspitz
    Finally an article worth reading, there should be more diveristiy in this section I think that many of us are sick and tired of news regarding Metallica, Megadeth, Foo Wankers and so on
    pressureproject
    Agreed, but I prefer GUITAR stuff.  Because, you know, it's a guitar website....or it used to be at least. p.s.  Spare me the "it's a music site.." nonsense. Then change the name.
    seven.johnson
    Oh shit, I'm a bassist - can I still be here? Thing is, I think a lot of people can find inspiration from non-guitar places and that can be a great way to push your playing.
    Charlie4
    You can either stay in your little pentatonic blues box and play watered-down, overused guitar-based blues licks or listen to something fresh from a master AND improve your playing... My 2c.
    GR84
    Interesting subject, i was unfamiliar with this particular movement. I have listed to "Love Supreme" many times, i struggle to really connect with it on a musical level, but i appreciate it's message and complexity. Coltrane is a artist whom i respect, and have a interest in, at the same time his music is not always the most accessible to me, as opposed to say Miles Davis,  One of the most fascinating things i ever heard about Coltrane though was during a live performance he was playing a extended solo that when on and on, and then stopped playing the sax and just started hitting his chest and belting out vocals, and the reason he stated was that he had hit every note he could for the song with the Sax but still had more to say that he couldn't finish with the sax so he continued with his chest pounding and shouting to complete the emotion he was feeling. That's passion.
    vekii
    That's a great story. I always thought of Trane as a tech/death metal guy in jazz (esp.while listening to Giant steps). I love some of his stuff and I understand that he's contributed so much to the music and some of his late stuff isn't too accessible, but as much as I tried, I can't get into a lot of his stuff due to his issues with intonation (and my sensitivity to it), it's just sharp most of the time and it's killing my ears and turns me off. But on the ballads he plays like an angel. On the other hand, as much as I love tenor, I'm not much of a fan of alto, but I could listen to Bird all day, any day - if Coltrane was a saint, then Bird should've been the air marshall of the galaxy. Nice article, Maria, as always!
    GR84
    Hmmm, interesting, i think you hit the nail right on the head with my thoughts on listening to Coltrane as well, 
    = Murmur =
    Coincidentally at some point while he was still alive, someone asked Coltrane what's next for him. He himself apparently said: "To become a saint". Either way, the guy made some epic music. I'd recommend checking out the albums "Giant Steps" and "Live at the Village Vanguard" along with the above mentioned "Love Supreme" if anyone wants a starting point to Coltrane.
    Maiden95
    One of the greatest and most inspiring musicians ever. He could express anything he wanted through his instrument. A level very fucking few ever get close to reaching.