Dan Forshaw writes:
September 23rd saw what would have been the 87th birthday of arguably the most significant jazz saxophonist of the 20th century, John Coltrane. One of the gems that was unearthed by one of my Facebook page ‘fans’ was the original manuscript of Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. Sketched in his own hand one felt drawn even closer to this amazing work, in Coltrane’s own words ‘a humble offering to God’.
I’ve had many ‘arguments’ with other musicians about Coltrane’s influence as a musician. But few musicians, in any genre have inspired the founding of a church. Coltrane has even achieved sainthood in the African Orthodox Church! The church of John Coltrane meets weekly in San Francisco and uses the music of Coltrane and his writings as a basis for its liturgy.
Despite being born sixteen years after the release of A Love Supreme the work has still had a profound effect on my life. Like Coltrane, I had a strong church based upbringing, but at seventeen I found the life of a professional musician all too appealing, particularly when set against the perceived hypocrisy I found in organised religion. Yet it was Coltrane’s music and his story, which lead me on a path towards my own ‘spiritual awakening’ in 2004. I travelled to New York in 2005 following an invitation from Branford Marsalis, (with whom I’d been in email conversation with since we met at the RNCM in 2003) and discussed the work and its impact at length. I was also fortunate to share a few beers with Ravi, (Coltrane) and get a first hand reflection on his father’s music.
After I returned from New York, I relocated from Fleetwood, Lancashire to study Music and Theology in London, writing my dissertation on Coltrane’s music and spirituality.
Coltrane’s music has indeed lead me to a fuller, more productive life. I now combine my music with a part-time role in the Church of England, quite an usual place to find a Jazz musician! It is this role that has lead to me perform the music of Charles Mingus in St. Paul’s Cathedral, Eric Dolphy style bass clarinet in Hereford Cathedral and the full A Love Supreme suite in Churches in Belfast, Cambridge and London.
My current project is a called ‘Jazz Vespers’ and is a reflection on ‘The Blues’, using music, readings and reflections to underline how jazz musicians have taken the hardest realities of life and turned them into music. Our next event is at Ely Cathedral on Sunday, 20th October at 6.30pm. For more information, please click here.
For me my music, in particular jazz has to be more than gigs, record deals or ego trips. I try to keep to Coltrane’s depiction;
“My music is the spiritual expression of what I am — my faith, my knowledge, my being…When you begin to see the possibilities of music, you desire to do something really good for people, to help humanity free itself from its hang-ups…I want to speak to their souls.”
For more information about Jazz Vespers or Dan Forshaw please visit www.danforshaw.com
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