Monday, January 17, 2011

John Coltrane - A Love Supreme (Impulse! 1965)

Saxophonist and composer John Coltrane's "humble offering to Him" has become one of the most revered albums in jazz and indeed all of American music. A deeply spiritual man who claimed to have experienced a religious epiphany that allowed him to cast aside alcohol and drugs and fully commit himself to a musical and spiritual quest that were becoming one and the same, Coltrane entered the studio with the other members of what would come to be called his "classic quartet" and recorded a four part suite that marked a milestone in his career. After this album, Coltrane would more fully embrace free jazz, continuing his explorations of inner and outer space freed from the boundaries of traditional jazz. This album features the intensity of the music to come, but tempers it with powerful compassion and strong sense of purpose. 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 "Rseolution" 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 "Persuance" with a beautiful drum solo, showing all of the rhythmic possibility 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. This is an album like few others, one that gives a sense of wonder and awe each time it is heard, no matter how many times it is played. All four musicians achieved perfection on that have very rarely been approached in music, but it was a singular triumph for John Coltrane in the melding of the spiritual and the musical, the solo and the ensemble. Coltrane shown a bright light into the darkness of America, showing us a better way, away from war, greed and avarice. Much like the man we revere today (and every day) Martin Luther King, John Coltrane was on a mission of peace and enlightenment and we are all better for it. A Love Supreme -

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