Improvisation. That was the modus operandi of the late jazz great John Coltrane. And, in part, it describes what Saturday’s Coltrane Day Music Festival is all about.
Part concert, part jam session, part jazz-and-blues workshop, Coltrane Day is also about raising money to transform the former Dix Hills home of John and Alice Coltrane into a hands-on cultural center inspiring young people to appreciate music as a universal language.
The festival, launched last year on the 50th anniversary of Coltrane’s authorship of one of his greatest compositions, “A Love Supreme,” so far has raised $200,000 toward Friends of the Coltrane Home’s goal of $2 million to restore the ranch-style house. “It’s as if Beethoven composed his Ninth Symphony right here on Long Island,” says Ron Stein, president of Friends. Coltrane wrote “A Love Supreme,” considered among the most influential 20th century pieces of music, in the studio of the home he bought with his wife in 1964. His widow sold it in 1973, six years after his passing, and moved to Los Angeles, where their daughter, jazz vocalist Michelle Coltrane, still lives. Alice Coltrane, a pianist who succeeded McCoy Tyner in her husband’s band, died in 2007. Sons Ravi and Oran, after their father, are both saxophonists.
Michelle and her band perform at 8 p.m. Saturday on the Chapin Rainbow Stage in Huntington’s Heckscher Park. She opens for jazz drummer Roy Haynes and his Fountain of Youth band, playing at 9 as part of the Summer Arts Festival.
Michelle Coltrane, who was 3 when her father died, has written lyrics for his piece, “A Moment’s Notice,” which she will sing Saturday night. “I hope I did a respectful job,” she said in a phone interview. “Mostly what I remember of my dad was hearing him play in the basement” where he had a recording studio. One of the goals of Friends of the Coltrane Home is to restore the studio to current state-of-the-art technical standards. “I think people will relate to it as more of a suburban home than a museum,” Coltrane says. “It’s not Graceland. It could be your neighbor’s house.”
Among the other Coltrane Day performers are saxophonist Charles Neville of the Neville Brothers playing with his band Circus Mind (4 p.m.) and jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker (6 p.m.) who’s played with artists ranging from Parliament/Funkadelic to Frank Zappa and Long Island jazz artists Ray Anderson and Steve Salerno (2 p.m.).
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“But what sets Coltrane Day apart,” says Stein, “is that it’s more than just sitting back listening to someone else play,”
Beginning at noon, kids and adults can take free workshops in blues, reggae, hip-hop, percussion and music improv. Then, if you learn fast enough, you can join in community jams on stage before a live audience.
“Making music in a collaborative way is a component of the Coltrane legacy,” says Stein. “We hope to keep that up with the festival and ultimately with the Coltrane home.”