Writings about Music

Trane's Trains

Michael Robinson visiting John Coltrane resting place

Returning to my car after visiting at John Coltrane's resting place under a giant tree in its autumn beauty, out of nowhere a train rushed by with dramatic sonic accents.

Then, driving back past him, listening to Impressions with John and Elvin roaring swara and tala in perfect harmony, I was startled by the roar of another train jumping in from the opposite direction - Trane's Trains!

These were the Long Island Railroad abutting the periphery of John Coltrane's sacred resting place.

Train passing by the resting place of John Coltrane during visit by Michael Robinson

Very dramatic visiting here, softly singing some of his favorite songs, including Weaver of Dreams, What's New and Every Time We Say Goodbye. And, yes, tears came to my eyes, something extremely rare. Both for sadness at the state of the world he wished peace and harmony for, and for his all too brief time here. Yet Jack DeJohnette told me, viewing in a positive light, how John could not possibly have done any more than his Herculean accomplishments in the time we are so fortunate he shared here.

Recording three days of duets with Eliot Zigmund earlier in the week, Eliot marveled at all the great jazz he heard in Manhattan as a teenager, taking the subway from the Bronx, witnessing the Miles Davis band many times with Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Chambers, Wynton Kelly and Philly Joe Jones. And many times the Count Basie Orchestra, the early Bill Evans Trios and myriad others possessing the stamp of individuality. John Coltrane, he said, was the most remarkable of all. By far.

Three years earlier, before the pandemic, I had interviewed Zigmund for an article I wrote explaining my favorite Bill Evans Trio and Quartet albums, You Must Believe In Spring and Affinity, sharing the common denominator of Eliot at the helm of the percussion family of skin and metal, brushes and sticks, having a strong and original assimilatory connection to Jimmy Cobb who played drums for another favorite set of performances by Bill Evans on Kind of Blue.

Our music together was both gentle and roaring, entering musical environmental extremes suggested by the Ballads and Interstellar Space albums, my personal orientation simultaneously encompassing vistas of Pandit Jasraj, Shivkumar Sharma and Anindo Chatterjee with principles transcending individual artists and cultures towards discovering and developing one's own approach, including realizing how standards are the eternal ragas of jazz, having been blessed with the fortuitous acquisition of knowledge from Indian masters augmenting prior jazz consciousness, yielding unique insights of dual understanding and experience to aesthetically recognize, reason, understand, and internalize, evidently being the first person to notice the profound truth uniting ragas and standards being vessels for music improvisation in specific detail at least in published written form.

John Coltrane resting place directly left of giant tree

I had literally followed the Harlem River to the sessions with Eliot in Jersey, recognizing along the way the city there where Bill Evans resided.

I had hoped Eliot had heard Red Garland with the Miles Davis band, wishing to hear about that experience, but he only recalled Wynton Kelly at the keyboard, another great favorite, of course.

Now looking forward to viewing the kimono exhibition at the MET, these being the inspirations for many of the album cover artwork for Azure Miles Records.

Being there at his resting place, what William Butler Yeats had for his came to mind.

Cast a cold Eye
On Life on Death
Horseman pass by

A friend is visiting with a childhood friend in Delaware today whose maiden name is Horseman!

This moment, this minute and each second in it
Will leave a glow upon the sky
And as time goes by
It will never die

(from My Shining Hour by jazzmen Johnny Mercer & Harold Arlen)

A thrill recording this song for Stargirl. John Coltrane has it on Coltrane Jazz.

And it was thrilling recording songs chosen spontaneously in the moment, those included in our sessions learned from Frank Sinatra and Lennie Tristano and Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennet and Bill Evans and John Coltrane and Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt and Phil Woods and Richard Davis and Alan Dawson and Dave Brubeck and others with Zigmund providing a rush of swing both slow and fast like a thyme incense steam train, awakening in me new aspects of our collective unconscious with beckoning potential for fathomless subtlety and force and all between.

Eliot Zigmund and Michael Robinson at conclusion of three days recording piano and drum duets

Relating the story of trains hurtling by the resting place of John Coltrane when I rose to leave, Eliot quipped, "Hopefully they were Blue Tranes!"

- Michael Robinson, November 2022, Los Angeles


Please note that Alice Coltrane, an artist I have great admiration for, has her resting place with her husband. My focus here was on John Coltrane who has been a central fascination and inspiration of mine from teenage years and on.


© 2022 Michael Robinson All rights reserved


Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer, programmer, pianist and musicologist. His 199 albums include 152 albums for meruvina and 47 albums of piano improvisations. Robinson has been a lecturer at UCLA, Bard College and California State University Long Beach and Dominguez Hills.