Saturday, January 24, 2004

Late period Coltrane

I remember when I was first getting interested in jazz I found a record (or tape, the memory is a little hazy) of John Coltrane's called Transition. Cool, I thought, this is the guy who did My Favorite Things and played on those Miles Davis records I'd been taking out of the library.

Well, needless to say, I wasn't prepared for the intensity of the music and was really confused about what was going on. This wasn't the lyrical music of MFT or the cool feeling of Kind of Blue but the sound of someone who was seemingly in pain.

A few years later, when I knew more about the music and Coltrane's development I was able to understand the music better and come to enjoy most of it. The pain that I heard in that first record was real; it was the pain of the spiritual search that Coltrane was going through: reading different religious texts as well as books on physics and astronomy in an attempt to understand the universe in which he was living. Also the all to real pain of being in a racist society and the ongoing civil rights movement played a large part in his musical development as did the more tangible advances of free jazz pioneers like Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler.

Now I thinkt that Transition is one of the easier late period records to come to grips with... it truly is a transition between the classic quartet and the new band that he would put together with Pharaoh Sanders and Rashied Ali. Other favorites from this period for me are The John Coltrane Quartet Plays and Meditations. The live records are still tough for me... I love Pharoah Sanders' playing on his own records, especially the drone based music of his 60's and 70's Impulse! Recordings, but his recordings with Coltrane are so harsh and unforgiving musically that it makes the music hard to warm up to.

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