Smithsonian Receives John Coltrane Saxophone to Kick Off Jazz Appreciation Month (photos)

John Hasse, Curator of American Music at the Smithsonian, with white gloves carefully holds Coltrane's Selmer Mark VI tenor saxophone. | Jeff Malet

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History kicked off the 13th Annual Jazz Appreciation Month with donations from the family of the late jazz great John Coltrane and from notable jazz photographer Chuck Stewart at a special donation ceremony in the museum’s Warner Theater on March 26. The date also marked the 50th anniversary of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme,” widely considered one of the greatest jazz albums of all time.

John Coltrane’s Selmer Mark VI tenor saxophone, made in Paris about 1965, the year “A Love Supreme” was released, will join the Smithsonian’s jazz collection. The saxophone was one of three principal saxophones that Coltrane that (1926-1967) played and will be on view in the “American Stories” exhibition at the Smithsonian starting June 17. The museum will also be displaying Coltrane’s original score of his masterpiece. The Smithsonian’s jazz collection includes such treasures as Dizzy Gillespie’s trumpet and Herbie Hancock’s cordless keyboard, currently on display. The museum also houses 100,000 pages of Duke Ellington’s unpublished music.

“Today, a cherished and beloved Coltrane family heirloom becomes a national treasure and through Stewart’s never-before-seen images, our view of Coltrane expands,” said John Gray, director of the museum. “These generous donations help us preserve not only the legacy of individual artists, but of jazz music as a whole and its integral role in the history of music in America.”

Jazz photographer Chuck Stewart was on hand to personally sign over some of his rare photographs from the “A Love Supreme” recording session. These come from recently discovered long forgotten negatives. Stewart is best known for his photographs of popular jazz artists, such as Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald.

This year’s Jazz Appreciation Month programs include free talks, workshops and performances. During the donation ceremonies, visitors were treated to a live performance from the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Quintet and a discussion workshop on the life and meaning of John Coltrane led by Cornel West with educator Christine Passarella. A full schedule of JAM 2014 events at the Smithsonian and links to resources are available online at

The Smithsonian Museum of American History is located at 14th Street and Constitution Ave., N.W., in Washington, D.C., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m..

View our photos of the March 26 donation ceremony by clicking on the photo icons below.

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