Yesterday, we reported that Ornette Coleman won the Pulitzer Prize for music-the first time ever that a jazz work earned the honor (Wynton Marsalis won a Pulitzer in 1997 but for his oratorio on slavery). Well, the Pulitzer Prize Board bestowed a posthumous Special Citation to John Coltrane, on account of his lifetime of innovative and influential work.
Praised for “his masterful improvisation, supreme musicianship and iconic centrality to the history of jazz,” the committee, in an official press release, also declared that Coltrane’s “exalted stature arises from his composition and recordings. In A Love Supreme, he produced an imposing composition expressing faith. In Africa/Brass, he achieved astonishing orchestral feats. His work has weight, an artistic quest and searching nature. Coltrane infused the existing tradition with innovation and radical approaches. The surface of his music is dynamic and palpable, the underlying structure is suffused with spirituality and provocative political content.”
As noted yesterday, the Board expanded its criteria to win the Music Prize in 2004, and iconic pianist-composer Thelonious Monk earned a posthumous Special Citation in 2006. Administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, Sig Gissler, claims the citation “underscores the Board’s continuing desire to broaden its Music Prize to recognize the full range of musical excellence in America that might not have been considered under previous rules and practices.”
Jazz musicians winning Pulitzers is certainly a trend that JazzTimes can get behind.