Meet John Coltrane’s teenage friend and fellow saxophone player, Benny Golson

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  • Benny Golson picture
  • Benny Golson picture
  • Benny Golson picture

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — John Coltrane is a household name for most people who know anything about music. However, Coltrane’s teenage friend and fellow famous jazz musician, Benny Golson, may be less familiar.

The 90-year-old jazz saxophonist and composer spoke with metro students at Johnson County Community College for an hour and a half on Thursday, Oct. 10 about his music and life as a jazz musician in the mid-to-late 1900s.

“I would write a song every time someone sneezed,” Golson said.

The composer was famous for many charts, including “Killer Joe” and “Stablemates.” He said his music really took off when Miles Davis recorded them at the suggestion of John Coltrane.

“I was 16 and he was 18 at the time,” Golson said, remembering when he was just starting off on saxophone.

He said he and Coltrane would practice at his house by listening to records and plunking out accompaniment on an old piano. The two became discouraged after they were replaced in a local jazz band. However, Golson’s mom told them they would get so good, bands like that wouldn’t be able to afford them. She was right.

Jazz as a genre today

In a Q&A style session, Golson took questions from children and adults alike about his experience in the jazz world.

“I love it!” Golson said when asked how he felt about the state of jazz as a genre today.

He said jazz is moving ahead like everything else, including himself.

“I used to have hair,” he said, smiling.

Golson said he thought the current emphasis on music education in school was something he never had growing up. He talked about how he never had a teacher, using only the records of other greats and his own ear to figure out his own voice.

“Can you imagine a university without teachers?” He said.

Golson’s appearance in Kansas City was presented by the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra’s educational outreach branch, KCJO Jazz Works.

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