John Coltrane Memorial Concert History

The John Coltrane Memorial Concert (JCMC) is the world’s oldest annual performance tribute to the musical and spiritual legacy of John Coltrane.  The first concert was performed in Boston on Sunday evening, July 17, 1977, in the Friends of Great Black Music Loft, a performance space for creative artistic expression established by master percussionist Syd Smart.  The date was specifically selected to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Coltrane’s passing (7/17/67).  The concert developed through the collective efforts of Smart, the late bassist Hayes Burnet, and saxophonist Leonard Brown and is based on three principles:

  1.  African American musicians should exert leadership in defining, educating, creating, perpetuating, expanding, and enhancing the musical traditions of African American people in the USA and the global African Diaspora.
  1. John Coltrane was one of the most remarkable musicians in history and worthy of a memorial tribute.
  1. The community of both listeners and musicians has a continued deep and abiding interest in and love for John Coltrane’s music.

These three musicians organized a concert honoring Coltrane that featured new, exciting, beautiful and moving renditions of his musical compositions.  The attendance and response was so overwhelming that a decision was made to hold the concert annually.  Since then, the John Coltrane Memorial Concert (JCMC) has developed into a greater Boston and Cambridge tradition featuring many outstanding musicians. To accommodate expanding audiences, the JCMC moved three times during the period 1979 to 1986: from the Loft to the Modern Theatre, then to Emmanuel Church and finally to New England Life Hall in 1985.  In 1986, the JCMC relocated to Northeastern University, which has served as its home base for the last thirty-one years.

Along with outstanding area musicians, the JCMC has featured world class guest artists, including Kamau Adilifu, Ahmad Alaadeen, Amiri Baraka, Bill Barron, Gary Bartz, Edith and Alvin Batiste, De Ama Battle and the Art of Black Dance and Music, Brother Blue (aka Dr. Hugh Morgan Hill), Anthony Brown’s Asian American Orchestra, Cecil Bridgewater, Terri Lyne Carrington, George Coleman, Ravi Coltrane, Carlos Cordova, Alan Dawson, Santi Debriano, Frank Foster, Michael Harper, Donald Harrison. Giovanni Hidalgo, Manenque Hidalgo, Yusef Lateef, Cecil McBee, Mulgrew Miller, New England Spiritual Ensemble, Nancy Ostrovsky, Danilo Perez, Ralph Peterson , Pharoah Sanders, Shirley Scott, Cecilia Smith and McCoy Tyner.

The John Coltrane Memorial Concert is now presented by Friends of  John Coltrane Memorial Concert, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charitable organization originally established as John Coltrane Memorial Concert in 1977 and incorporated in 2012. Going forward, Friends of John Coltrane Memorial Concert, Inc. intends to expand the John Coltrane Memorial Concert legacy through performances and educational programs for all ages.  For more information, go to