Trane Fair Home
John Coltrane’s house on Long Island rescued for history
Folks packing Huntington, Long Island’s Town Hall one late April evening were there to sing praise to John Coltrane. One woman actually did sing a reworked version of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” But most spoke softly to the five-member town council, supporting an effort to preserve the 2,500-square-foot brick ranch house on Candlewood Lane in Dix Hills, just south of the Long Island Expressway, that was Coltrane’s final home.
Coltrane lived there for three years, until his 1967 death. In 1964, in a dormered upstairs room, he composed A Love Supreme, a recording as famous for its spiritual heft as for its enduring appeal.
A local developer had planned to remove the house, now condemned, and to subdivide the two-acre property for resale. Enter Dix Hills resident Steve Fulgoni, the recently elected head of his local historical society and an avid jazz fan. Fulgoni learned from a biography that Coltrane had lived in the town. Then he came across an Internet article making specific reference to the house. “I discovered that it was only weeks away from being torn down,” he says.
Fulgoni set up a website (dixhills.com), and put the word out. There was talk of the town purchasing the land and turning the home into a museum similar to the Louis Armstrong House in Queens. Letters of support flooded in, including one from Archbishop Franzo King, who runs the St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church in San Francisco.
At Town Hall, advocates spoke of Coltrane as “jazz’s van Gogh,” and of the house as “a sacred space” with “priceless educational potential.” One of Coltrane’s sons, Ravi, an accomplished saxophonist himself, arrived with his own young son in tow. “I thought this house would always be there,” he said from the podium, “and I believe that it needs to stand.” But there were naysayers too—chiefly neighborhood association members concerned that a museum would disturb their “sleepy residential community.”
“It was the most colorful hearing we’ve ever had,” says Councilwoman Susan Berland. Not to mention convincing. By unanimous vote, the council declared Coltrane’s home a landmark, protecting it from demolition. A separate June hearing will determine whether the town will purchase the building.
On Long Island’s North Shore, a real estate deal alluring was trumped by a love supreme. Larry Blumenfeld
Tenor-Sax Stalwart Stands Up in Hall of Fame With His Double-Edged Sword
Chris Potter devoted the first of his two Verve albums to a gallery of saxophone heroes that included John Coltrane, Joe Henderson, and Sonny Rollins. His first for Sunnyside, Lift: Live at the Village Vanguard, keeps the icons off the stage. But when he returned to the club for the CD release, you could feel them beaming at him from their photos on the wall.
Potter opened with a spray of notes that chased the ghosts from the room, then launched “Nouveau,” guiding his tenor through a range of beseeching arcs and gusty exclamations. The only detectable influence was Rollins—more for his canny construction of motif than for the stentorian sweep of his horn. It helped that pianist Kevin Hays was replaced in the working group by guitarist Adam Rogers, whose open-ended accompaniment provoked Potter’s exploratory urges, which never went so far as to disengage him from the churning rhythms of bassist Scott Colley and drummer Bill Stewart.
Technique is Potter’s double-edged sword. Obstacle-strewn compositions may flatter him, but they obscure his melodic powers. So Billy Strayhorn’s “My Little Brown Book” was like a clearing in the woods. Hefting a bass clarinet, Potter resembled an old-school tenor man back-phrasing a theme. His limitations on the horn were oddly appealing even when he squeaked his reed during the second verse. Switching back to tenor for a cadenza, however, his breezy aplomb shattered the spell.
But his upward-tumbling glissandi morphed into Stewart’s “7.5,” which opens the disc and closed the set. The song’s simple hook inspired a dozen clever permutations from Potter and Rogers, and its odd meter sparked Colley’s bluesy swagger. The climax came when bass and guitar dropped out, leaving Potter and Stewart in polyrhythmic roil—an unassuming tribute to Coltrane and Elvin Jones, who had died only hours before. Nate Chinen