The Saint Who Played Sax
Music lovers are known to put their favorite artists on pedestals and bestow them with lofty titles. Springsteen is the Boss. Elvis is the King. Aretha is the Queen. Every genre, from punk to funk to bluegrass seems to have a Godfather. Bluesbreakers fans went so far as to proclaim that Clapton was God.
John Coltrane, though, is probably the only musician to officially become a saint.
Coltrane, the jazz saxophonist who was a sideman for Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk and also a brilliant composer and bandleader, is recognized as a saint of the African Orthodox Church (AOC). The St. John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church, an AOC parish in San Francisco, regularly uses Coltrane's music and lyrics as prayer and liturgy in their celebrations of “oneness with God through sound.” The centerpiece of the church’s Sunday service is “sound praise” that combines AOC teachings and readings with the Twenty-third Psalm and Coltrane’s landmark 1964 album A Love Supreme.
In this short video, you can get a glimpse of a typical Sunday afternoon at “the Coltrane Church” and hear from its congregants about how Coltrane and jazz fit into their spiritual life.