FARMINGTON — A giant in the world of jazz, American jazz saxophonist John Coltrane and his work are the next featured selections of the New Commons Project of the University of Maine at Farmington.

An iconic figure of 20th-century jazz, John William Coltrane (1926-1967), also known as “Trane,” is best known for his brilliant improvisation. Born in North Carolina, he played in a community band in his early years, picking up the alto saxophone in high school and performed in the U.S. Navy band during his service in World War II.

During the late ’40s and ’50s, he played with legendary musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Bostic, Johnny Hodges, the Miles Davis Quintet and Thelonious Monk. Coltrane formed his own acclaimed quartet in 1960. His first record with his new group featured his hugely successful “My Favorite Things.” “Giant Steps,” “Chasin’ the Trane” and “A Love Supreme” are among his celebrated recordings.

His memorable composition, “Alabama,” was written in response to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing on Sept. 15, 1963. It is a powerful instrumental of the tragic Birmingham, Alabama, attack by the Ku Klux Klan that killed four African-American girls.

At the forefront of free jazz, Coltrane was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for his “masterful improvisation, supreme musicianship and iconic centrality to the history of jazz.”

UMF’s New Commons events featuring the work of John Coltrane include:


Keynote event, Anthony Davis lecture, “Race, White Backlash and the Spiritual Quest: Jazz Responds to the Struggle for Civil Rights” — Wednesday, Oct. 31, at 11:45 a.m., UMF Emery Community Arts Center. Join Anthony Davis — award-winning composer, pianist and educator whose music stretches to jazz and beyond — for a lecture and performance to initiate the New Commons programming for John Coltrane’s “Alabama.”

Film series, “Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary” — Thursday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m., UMF Emery Community Arts Center. This 2016 film directed by John Scheinfeld gives a thoughtful and thorough overview of the saxophonist’s life and music.

Gustavo Aguilar Get Libre Collective — Wednesday, Nov. 7, at 7:30 p.m., UMF Emery Community Arts Center. The Gustavo Aguilar Get Libre Collective featuring Christine Correa (vocals), Jon Hallstrom (guitar) and Eric Thomas (woodwinds) perform dynamic renditions of two classic jazz works of the 1960s civil rights movement: “We Insist! Max Roach’s ‘Freedom Now Suite'” and John Coltrane’s “Alabama.”

Anthony Green: “Today’s Music Through Activism” — Tuesday, Nov. 20, at 7:30 p.m. Join musician Anthony Green for a lively consideration of the relationship between contemporary music and political activism.

UMF’s New Commons Project is building a contemporary cultural commons of 24 works of art, literature and ideas that are submitted by members of the Maine community. Twelve will be shared this year through a number of unique events, public discussions, talks and community engagement projects. These 12 works have been selected from more than 150 submissions by community members from a dozen Maine counties and include, a critically acclaimed TV show, public art installations by an anonymous artist, a jazz elegy and more.

To learn more about the New Commons Project, or to submit a nomination for the next round of selections to be announced in 2019, visit the website at

Composer Anthony Davis 

“Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary”

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