February 5, 2024

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A Man and a Myth Whose Legendary Status Literally Precedes Him

A Glimpse into Coltrane’s Philadelphia through a Side Door

Photograph of The Coltrane House in Philadelphia. Located near the intersection of 33rd and Oxford Streets in the city’s Strawberry Mansion neighborhood, Coltrane lived here—first with his cousin Mary, then with his first wife Naima and adopted daughter Syeeda—from 1952 to 1958. Photographed here in 1992 by the prolific chronicler of all things Coltrane, Yasuhiro Fujioka.

By Matt Silver

There was something happening in Philadelphia during the period John Coltrane came of age there. He arrived in 1943, shortly after his high school graduation and stayed until late 1957. After kicking heroin in the Strawberry Mansion house he shared with his cousin Mary, first wife Naima, and daughter Syeeda—all soon to be immortalized on Giant Steps — he did as one must when on the cusp of stratospheric artistic innovation; he moved to New York City. He hooked up with Thelonious Monk and, together, they transcended what jazz conception had been to that point. Then it was back to Miles and the new thing, the modal phase. And a year later: Kind of Blue.