Less than a year before his death, John Coltrane sat for an interview in which he spoke about how he wanted to be a “force for good” and the ways in which music plays a role in his life. The interview, which KPFK radio’s Frank Kofsky conducted in November 1966 and is streaming in full below, has since been whimsically animated as part of PBS’ Blank on Blank series.
In one of the more surprising parts of the interview, the jazz legend told Kofsky that he doesn’t practice that often. “Not too much at this time,” he answered, despite the fact he’d recorded a number of gigs that year, including Offering. “I find it’s only when something is trying to come through I really practice. And then, I don’t know how many hours. It’s all day.”
Coltrane also explained how a ruined tenor sax mouthpiece discouraged him from playing for a bit, and how that made him want to play soprano sax more.
The pair also discussed how the jazz musician was impressed by Malcolm X, whom he saw give a speech. But when Kofsky tried to draw a comparison between Malcolm X’s themes and Coltrane’s music, the saxophonist shot down a direct connection. “I think that music, being an expression of the human heart, or of the human being itself, does express just what is happening – the whole of human experience at the particular time that it is being expressed,” Coltrane said.
But he did say that people should work together to improve their situation. “In any situation that we find in our lives, when there is something that we feel should be better, we must exert effort to try and make it better,” Coltrane said. “So it’s the same socially, musically, politically in any department of our lives. I think music is an instrument. It can create the initial thought patterns that can change the thinking of the people.”