Ney Carballo
Category: 2020 College Winner

Ney Carballo

Florida International University

“I start in the middle of a sentence and move both directions at once.” These famous words, which were said by one of the greatest musicians in American history, have inspired me since I became a jazz enthusiast at a very early age. African American saxophonist, John Coltrane, has encouraged me to study and practice the art of jazz since I started taking saxophone classes at the age of seven. Without Coltrane’s influence, I would not be able to play and enjoy jazz the way I do today. More importantly, without his influence, I would not be able to understand the significant role that jazz played in America’s art history and that still plays nowadays.

Ever since the age of seven, I have been listening to Coltrane’s most recognized jazz records. Albums such as A Love Supreme, Blue Train, and Giant Steps helped develop the strong passion that I feel towards jazz nowadays. In these albums, John Coltrane’s use of advanced chords of unusual succession is very unique and requires a level of skill and knowledge that only a small number of jazz musicians can master. This technique, known by modern musicians as “Coltrane Changes,” is recognized for its strong effect on the listener’s emotions and thoughts. I remember with vivid detail the first time I listened to one of Coltrane’s records. It felt like a story was unfolding while he played his saxophone. The song kept building and building in loudness and intensity until it eventually reached climax and started to dissolve and relax. It reminded me of the music played during the most dramatic scenes in action movies. Had I not paid attention to Coltrane’s music that first time I heard him play, I would have not discovered my passion for jazz and my life would have turned out differently. Had I not found out about Coltrane’s existence when I was just a little child, I would be oblivious to the art of jazz and I would have never learned to play the saxophone.

John Coltrane is, without a doubt, the musician I look up the most. Indeed, he shaped who I consider myself to be nowadays. He made significant contributions to the jazz genre and it is considered to be one of the greatest saxophone players of all time. In a letter to his listeners in 1964, Coltrane wrote, ‘’I humbly asked to be to be given the means and privileged to make others happy through music.” In other words, Coltrane considered that a musician was not only an instrument player but also a message giver. With his saxophone, Coltrane not only created an art form but also an expression of his soul that could make others happy.