Young Coltrane and Benny Golson meets Charlie Parker

I am going to talk about a short story which could be interesting for most jazz lovers. Since I heard this story from Benny Golson, I will try to use his words to tell the story while adding my comments later.

Young Coltrane and Benny Golson were two close friends who played saxophone when they were 15 or 16. They closely followed the music of Charlie Parker who was the incredibly innovative jazz saxophone player at that time.

Young Benny and John go to New York City to hear Bird. Even though they were familiar with Bird’s music from the released records, they were so shocked by what they heard live, they decided that it is not humanly possible to improvise that fast. They thought that there must be a trick that they needed to discover to play like he did. It should have been either a special mouth-piece or a special modification to make that kind of performance possible.

After the concert, they slip into the backstage, to meet this incredible musician. Their main goal was to discover what kind of trick he was making to sound that good. Bird let these two naive enthusiastic young boys get close to him when he met them. Benny and John started to execute their well-thought clever plan by asking a lot of questions and weighing Bird’s saxophone while carrying it.


While walking along with Bird, one of them carried Bird’s saxophone while the other kept asking questions about Bird’s equipment. Now they were confident that they could sound like him when they buy the necessary equipment. They go shopping the next day to buy everything that Bird had been using. After buying everything they race home to try their new equipment. First thing after their test with the equipment they call each other to ask “Did it work?”. Unfortunately the answer is negative. :)

Years after this incident, they both become two of the most influential jazz saxophonists of their time.