John Coltrane music festival honors jazz legend in big way

August 23
05:00 2018


By Busta Brown

The Chronicle

The Friends of John Coltrane is a charitable 501(c) 3 organization in High Point. The group’s mission is to preserve and celebrate the life and music of the legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, and they did in a big way. In 2011 the first John Coltrane International Jazz and Blues Festival was held at Oak Hollow Lake Park in High Point.

This Labor Day weekend, Sept. 1-2, the festival celebrates its eighth year at Oak Hollow Lake Park in High Point, with another powerhouse line up, which includes: Sheila E and her father Pete Escovedo, popular jazz vocalist Gregory Porter, John Coltrane’s son and daughter Ravi and Michelle, Diane Reeves, multi Grammy award winning jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and more.

“I’m looking forward to the crowd’s reaction to vocalist Jazzmia Horn. Her sound is different, yet very refreshing is the best way to describe her. I believe the audience will ask us to bring her back next year. She’s that good,” said Joe Williams Sr., a member of The Friends of John Coltrane and senior partner at Choices Media Group LLC.

The best of the best in jazz come out each year to honor the legendary saxophonist. George Benson, the late Al Jarreau, George Duke, Kenny G, Marcus Miller, Lalah Hathaway, Ramsey Lewis, Boney James and the list keeps going.  Last year Winston-Salem’s own, legendary keyboardist Keith Byrd, and his band members, bassist Eric Jones and guitarist Charles Burns, were highlighted as The NC Coltrane All-stars.

The vibe of the jazz festival is pure peace and love, and the food is always delicious. Williams shared the love each artist has for their craft and jazz music, “They’re pure and beautiful people. Their music means everything to them; it’s not about the money and fame. They believe in the music and you experience that at every festival.” The city of High Point was the perfect place for the John Coltrane International Jazz and Blues Festival. John was born in Hamlet, not too far from High Point.

“In his developmental years, I think from 3 to about 17, he was here in High Point. Those are the creative years, the years you kinda develop your habits. So I think High Point should take a little bit of credit of who Coltrane is,” boasts Joe Williams.

John Coltrane formed his own quartet in 1960. They created jazz classics such as “My Favorite Things,” “Africa Brass,” “Impressions,” “Giant Steps” and his signature work “A Love Supreme.”

In 2005, Williams and city leaders had a meeting about honoring Coltrane with a statue.  The 8-foot tall, bronze statue was created by sculptor Thomas Jay Warren and dedicated on Sept. 20, 2006. It is located at the Coltrane Plaza in downtown High Point. In 2009, the group decided to focus their energies on the creation of an annual jazz festival, and the rest is becoming music history.

Go to The Chronicle’s channel at Winstonsalem Chronicle for more about the festival.

Coltrane died of liver disease on July 15, 1967, but The Friends of John Coltrane organization is doing their part to make sure his music and legacy last in our hearts forever.

For more info about the John Coltrane International Jazz and Blues Festival visit its website at 


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