Budding saxophonists Carl and Earl Grubbs were 13 and 15 when they visited their cousin Naima and her husband, the late John Coltrane, in New York one Easter in the mid 1950s. "John was asleep and when he woke up he started practicing," Carl reminisced from his home in Baltimore. "Me and my brother had never heard a saxophone being played like that. We asked him to show us some things, and he sat down at the piano and showed us the way he voiced the chords, wrote everything down, and we even had a tape of him practicing.
"And every time we could get over to New York when John was in town, that was one of the main things that was happening . . . five, ten minutes, an hour, get-together with him and he would show us things he was doing. Anything we would ask he would tell us . . . We had a chance to grow up under John, like, in music. It extended all the way up until he died. I think we were blessed."
District Curators will present the Grubbs brothers' newly reorganized group The Visitors (with drummer William Goffigan, bassist Ameen Raheem, pianist John Kordalewski) in a John Coltrane Birthday Celebration at d.c. space tonight at 8 and 10. The nonprofit arts organization will also sponsor the five-day teaching residency in Washington this week of a former Coltrane associate, trumpeter Don Cherry. That will culminate in a benefit performance for WPFW-FM Saturday at the Pension Building by the D.C. Workshop Orchestra, a unit he plans on putting together during his stay.