At Home With The Coltranes, Listening To Stravinsky Saxophonist and composer Ravi Coltrane — son of John and Alice — says his mother's love of symphonic music provided a childhood soundtrack for him and his siblings.

At Home With The Coltranes, Listening To Stravinsky

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This summer, we're exploring our parents' music and the impact it made on us. We've heard from writers, musicians, even a politician; about one song, introduced by a parent, that left a lasting impression.


SIEGEL: Today, we meet a musician who was born to American musical royalty.

RAVI COLTRANE: My name is Ravi Coltrane. I'm a tenor saxophonist and composer.


SIEGEL: Ravi Coltrane is the son of jazz icon John Coltrane. And his mother, Alice Coltrane, was a renowned jazz pianist and composer. His father died when he was very young. And while Ravi Coltrane now plays jazz, it was his mother's love for a different kind of music that produced a childhood soundtrack for him and his siblings.

COLTRANE: I remember my mother playing lots of symphonic music. Specifically, my mom was a great admirer of Igor Stravinsky's music.


COLTRANE: Her favorite pieces were "The Rite of Spring" and - more so - "The Firebird Suite."


COLTRANE: We used to dance around to it, you know, like we were on a stage.


COLTRANE: It is a ballet - "The Firebird" - so we were sort of channeling that idea.


SIEGEL: So you heard it a lot?

COLTRANE: Yes, we did.


SIEGEL: And it's fairly sophisticated music for a young child to be hearing. Did you - could you relate to it? Did it make an impression on you?

COLTRANE: It did. You know, there was something very compelling about it. You know, it was, you know, very different than the music that we were accustomed to hearing as young kids, growing up in the mid-, late-'60s - you know, R&B music; and my mother is from Detroit, so a lot of Motown-influenced music. And of course, my mother being Alice Coltrane, her, you know, she was very active in recording and performing during that time. So, you know, we heard music constantly. But there was something about "The Firebird" that really spoke to us.


SIEGEL: Can you recall a specific moment when you remember hearing Stravinsky - or a specific part of "The Firebird," for that matter?

COLTRANE: Yeah. We loved the finale. You know, (hums) ba-da-da-de-da...


COLTRANE: The very end of the piece begins in this very tranquil way. And then it builds into this very dramatic overture, this very simple theme. But yeah, something very dramatic and very powerful, that always sort of engages - as young kids.


SIEGEL: These days, do you ever go back and listen to Stravinsky just for enjoyment?

COLTRANE: Yes, I do. Yes, I do. I'm very fortunate and - lucky to have that kind of continuity, I guess, with my musical past. You know, a lot of that music is still very, very important for me. It was only recent that I found the recording that my mom used to play - the actual album. And it's the Columbia Symphony Orchestra version that Stravinsky conducts himself. Hearing that version again, it really brought me back to Dix Hills, Long Island - you know, late '60s; just the sound of that recording and, obviously, the effect that the composer conducting his own work, you know, had on the piece. It still had the same power.


COLTRANE: I still have that "Firebird" cover and I - actually, I have it up in my studio. I didn't want - I was going to put it in a frame, but I just have it sitting up - you know, near some other little artifacts. So when I'm not listening to the music, I can look at the cover, and it's basically - it's almost like the same thing for me.


SIEGEL: Well, Ravi Coltrane, thanks a lot for talking with us.

COLTRANE: I appreciate it so much. Thank you. Thank you very much.

SIEGEL: Saxophonist and composer Ravi Coltrane, talking about Igor Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite" as part of our series "Mom and Dad's Record Collection." His mother, Alice Coltrane, introduced that music to him.


SIEGEL: We leave you with some contemporary Coltrane from Ravi's new album, "Spirit Fiction." And you can write to us your stories about one song introduced to you by a parent. Write to us at, and put "parents' music" in your subject line.


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