A Beautiful letter from Angelika Beener, Daughter of Oliver Beener and niece of Thelonious Monk
February 22, 2004
Greetings. My name is Angelika I received an email concerning the matter of the fragility of the John Coltrane home status. My heart was deeply saddened by the news of the home possibly being destroyed. I am a New York City native, a jazz enthusiast, supporter and studying jazz musician. I am also the daughter of a jazz musician and the niece of Thelonious Monk, a renowned jazz pianist and composer, who recorded with and personally loved John Coltrane. The significance of this home is one that is deeply revered by Coltrane fans and people who appreciate the music, which incidently is the FIRST true genuine form of American music, as well as a wealth of knowledge, history and education to those who may not be as familiar with Coltrane or his music.
I can assure you that I am not only speaking for myself, but the jazz community at large when I say that losing this home would be a great disservice to American people, and the Coltrane family and their descendants. As I am sure you’re aware, one of the greatest jazz recordings, A Love Supreme, was created in that Long Island home. This was one of the most successful and influential jazz recordings to date. Its success was mainly due to the fact that it explored outside of the traditional jazz box. Also, the fact that this beautiful jazz suite was paying spiritual homage to The Creator, was another attraction, and as a result became one of the most sold jazz recordings ever. A Love Supreme has been and still is revered as a form of giving thanks in the highest regard. And yet, this is just one of many albums recorded by Coltrane that are “jazz bibles” among students and professors alike, and listeners of the music. Coltrane’s music transcends color, religion, sex, and status.
I was standing outside of the Blue Note jazz club a few cold weekends ago, when a Japanese couple stood on line behind me. They spoke very little English, and apparently they were trying to find out how long we were going to have to stand on this line in the 20 degree weather. Somehow, they managed to ask me questions like had I ever been to this club before, and who had performed there. When I asked them who they were listening to back home, they instantly said John Coltrane and smiled with an anxious laughter, and it was infectious because I instantly started smiling and confirming their great taste. We felt instantly bonded. We couldn’t say much to each other, yet somehow there was a feeling of sameness, and unity because we feel the same thing when listening to Coltrane – how could we not? I suppose this is one of the main things we marvel at when it comes to Coltrane. Universally, people seem to have very similar feelings when discussing him and his music. It is a feeling of love, peace, indescribable joy and the almost uniform “shake your head, shrug your shoulders and just put your hands up” because you can’t begin to put into words the musical genius of this one individual.
John Coltrane and his music are studied at all of the top conservatories around the country. Ivy league school professors, historians, current pop icons, and authors alike have paid homage to and discussed the impact and influence of John Coltrane. Whether it be his impact as the last true jazz giant, and the true forefather of the next jazz movement that was to come, or his impact as a man who was spiritually transformed and celebrated this not only through his music but as a man by example on and off stage. There is much to be emulated and learned about this man that would only enrich our lives, if given the opportunity to be exposed to the information. As New Yorkers, we should feel honored and privileged to have the access to this home – to be the “inheritors”, so to speak of such a landmark.
We should be proud to have this kind of history in our back yards, and compelled to show it off to the world. New York is the jazz mecca of the world, where hundreds of geniuses still flock to develop their talents, showcase them and make their living. People come from all over the world – Japan, Germany, Switzerland, France, Russia, Spain, to name a few – to come to New York to experience jazz in its native home. They come to Greenwich Village, Harlem, Brooklyn, Queens – all over to step on the “sacred ground”. Long Island should joyously accept the opportunity to be a proud contributor to this tradition, and share the home, history and heritage with people from all over the world.
I have spoken to many jazz musicians, some who have even worked with Coltrane’s son, Ravi (also a tenor saxophonist), who have expressed their concern, and their desire to help in any way possible to keep this home alive and restored. The possibilities and benefits are endless as to what can be done to and with the home if it is saved, and far outweigh any other decision. I plead with you to read my testimony and spread this to all pertinent people and organizations. I am also doing all I can to work with Mr. Steve Fulgoni to spread the word, and educate and inform people who will help. I am deeply thankful to him for bringing this to the public’s attention the way it ought to be. I give my sincere thanks for your time and efforts.