Thursday, November 19, 2015

John Coltrane - A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters [3 CD Super Deluxe Edition] (Verve/Impulse, 2015)


John Coltrane’s towering masterpiece A Love Supreme has been issued and re-issued in many formats and configurations since its release fifty years ago. This most recent reissue comes as a three disc “Super-Deluxe Edition” with the album itself occupying the first disc, followed by a disc of alternate takes and studio ephemera from the recording session and then concluding with a disc that has the well known concert from Juan Les Pins where the band played the A Love Supreme suite in full. This period was the peak of John Coltrane’s so called classic quartet with McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. One of the foremost bands in the history of jazz, their level of empathy and togetherness was extraordinary. The album itself is a four-part offering to God, where Part One "Acknowledgment" opens the album with a slow building and reverent statement of purpose, culminating with the chanting of the incantation "A Love Supreme... A Love Supreme..." building to a transcendent state. Part Two, "Resolution," has one of the most searing solos in the Coltrane canon, and his entrance in the beginning of the song is hair-raising in its emotional intensity. His saxophone cuts through like a beacon in the night, with Elvin Jones' rolling and storming percussion at his heels. Jones leads off Part Three "Pursuance" with a beautiful drum solo, showing all of the rhythmic possibilities of the music, then Coltrane comes in with another short solo that burns from within, before allowing McCoy Tyner a rippling and fleet fingered solo. Coltrane's re-entry is amazingly powerful and his interaction with Jones is like two forces of nature coming together. Garrison is granted a deeply grounded bass interlude that serves as a connecting piece between the two final movements of the suite. After the power and vision of the first three parts of the album, Part four "Psalm" represents the hard fought victory of Coltrane's spiritual and musical triumph. The music is slow and haunted, but possessed by a sense of grace and vision that few musicians have possessed. The second disc containing the alternate takes does offer a peek behind the scenes, showing that this wasn’t just something that was beamed from heaven, but an album that Coltrane meticulously put together, from overdubbing the invocation to moving through many takes of “Acknowledgement,” looking for the right opening. These alternates and breakdowns show a master craftsman carefully and patiently putting the pieces together to build a unified whole. Finally, the live album was widely bootlegged before its official release in a previous reissue of A Love Supreme. It is unique and powerful music and the band is vibrant in its performance. The yearning melody of “Resolution” is heart rending, and the band uses it as a springboard for an epic performance with Coltrane’s saxophone moving more deeply into the raw and scouring tone that he would develop for the remainder of his life. “Pursuance” is twice the length of the original, opening with an epic Elvin Jones solo, followed by the whole band reaching for the urgent theme of the piece. Garrison is given ample space to solo at length, which leads into the finale, a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “Psalm” with Coltrane stretching himself and his instrument to near the breaking point in search of spiritual grace. The liner notes contain some nice photographs and interesting handwritten notes, discographical information and an essay from Ashley Kahn. A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters (3 CD Super Deluxe Edition) - amazon.com

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