In November, 1966, eight months before he died of cancer, John Coltrane played a concert at Temple University in Philadelphia. It was not a financial success—only 700 people showed up—and the band’s high-energy music proved too much for some listeners. That concert recording is now officially out for the first time. It got our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead thinking about what Coltrane was up to:
“John Coltrane’s 1966 Philadelphia concert wasn’t quite as legendary as folks now claim, judging by the scant attention his biographers give it. But the double-CD “Offering: Live at Temple University” spotlights an aspect of Coltrane’s late period more heard about than heard—how his generosity of spirit led him to share his stage with lesser-known players. Drop-ins here include a gaggle of local percussionists he’d been jamming with.
Coltrane’s vocal outbursts in Philly lend credence to the idea his saxophone was an extension of his voice, just as soprano sax extended the range of his tenor. But Coltrane was fascinated by the saxophone itself, and ways to animate the mechanism. His breath liberated the saxophone’s life force. He was concerned with getting the instrument to sound, to feel as well as hear the dance of a vibrating air column inside the metal tube. Some fans had given up on Coltrane by 1966, but in a way his priorities hadn’t changed. Playing standards in the ’50s, he had that same love of setting the horn vibrating with a busy line.”