History of Friends of John Coltrane Memorial Concert
John Coltrane inspired many, no matter the community or culture, to achieve musical, spiritual, and humanitarian heights never thought possible. The Boston-based Friends of John Coltrane Memorial Concert, Inc. (FJCMC), originally established as John Coltrane Memorial Concert in 1977 and recently incorporated in 2012, presents the 35th annual recognition of Coltrane’s spiritual and musical legacy. The first concert was performed in Boston on Sunday evening of the 10th year anniversary of Coltrane’s death, July 17, 1977, in the Friends of Great Black Music Loft, a performance space for creative arts established by master percussionist Syd Smart. The concert developed through the collective efforts of Syd Smart, bassist Hayes Burnet, and saxophonist Leonard Brown. These musicians believed that:
Black African American musicians should exert leadership in perpetuating, expanding, enhancing and defining the musical traditions of Black African American people, and that John Coltrane was one of the most remarkable musicians in history and worthy of a memorial tribute. The community of both listeners and musicians has a continued deep and abiding interest in and love for Coltrane’s music.
So, they organized a concert honoring Coltrane that featured 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 gradually developed into a Boston tradition featuring many outstanding musicians. Before coming to Northeastern University in 1986, the JCMC had several “homes”. By the early 1980’s it had outgrown the seating audience capacity of the Loft , moving to the Modern Theatre for one year and then to Emmanuel Church till 1985 when it was held at New England Life Hall. In 1986, the JCMC came to Northeastern University, where it has been in residence over the past 26 years, providing the greater Boston and Cambridge communities with outstanding and memorable musical experiences. The Friends of the John Coltrane Memorial Concert (FJCMC) was incorporated as a separate entity in 2012.
The annual John Coltrane Memorial Concert has a tradition of presenting world class musicians and creative artists. The list includes Kamau Adilifu, Ahmad Alaadeen, De Ama Battle and the Art of Black Dance and Music, Amiri Baraka, Bill Barron, Gary Bartz, Edith and Alvin Batiste, Brother Blue, Cecil Bridgewater, Anthony Brown’s Asian American Orchestra, Terri Lyne Carrington, George Coleman, Ravi Coltrane, Carlos Cordova, Alan Dawson, Santi Debriano, Bill Dixon, Frank Foster, Guru’s Jazzmatazz, Michael Harper, Nat Hentoff, Giovanni Hildago, Manenque Hildago, Yusef Lateef, Cecil McBee, Andy McGhee, Mulgrew Miller, Nancy Ostrovsky, Danilo Perez, Ralph Peterson, George Russell, Phaorah Sanders, Shirley Scott, Cecilia Smith, and McCoy Tyner.
“Coltrane (still) draws a crowd … With 14 impeccably improvisational musicians leading the liturgy and several Boston jazz fixtures beatified throughout the course of the night, this year’s Coltrane tribute was like a Sunday morning service on Saturday night.”
– James Sullivan, The Boston Globe, 2011 Read it here.
“High Five: José Massó: What Counts in Music Today”
– Sarah Rodman, The Boston Globe, 2011 Read it here.
“John Coltrane Memorial Concert: an Exciting Night of Music with World Class Musicians”
El Mundo, 2011 Read it here.
“Fall in New England means it’s time for the John Coltrane Memorial Concert, an annual event that features some of the world-class musicians that call Boston home. It makes for an exciting night of music, a New England cultural event not to be missed.”
– Eric Jackson, Host of “Eric in the Evening”, WGBH, 2006
“He (co-founder Leonard Brown) and the other gentlemen who do the concert with him, they’re educators as well as musicians. They’re dedicated to young people, who would not have known anything about John without them.”
– Mary Alexander, Founder of the John W. Coltrane Cultural Society, Philadelphia, 2005
“When musicians honor Coltrane, technical skills are not enough. Coltrane’s peaceful nature and striving towards the divine must also enter the room…But Boston’s John Coltrane Memorial Concert has proved up to the task”
– Siddhartha Mitter, The Boston Globe, 2005
“The yearly John Coltrane Memorial Concert is one of the city’s treasures, as much for the justice it does to the late saxophone legend as for the original and distinct approach it takes to each performance”
– Bob Young, The Boston Herald, 2003
“The producers of the John Coltrane Memorial Concert found the perfect way to honor the legendary saxophonist”
– Bob Young, The Boston Herald, 1994
“Like the Coltrane himself, the music was wonderful, and the concert captured many aspects of his rich legacy”
– Ed Hazell, The Boston Phoenix, 1990
“Over the years, the musicians responsible for the Coltrane Memorial presentations have developed a refined logistical sense for presenting Coltrane’s music.”
– Bob Blumenthal, The Boston Globe, 1985
“John Coltrane lives, indeed.”
– Ernie Santosuosso, Boston Globe, 1979
JCMC archive: http://www.jcmc.neu.edu