Sunday, January 1, 2012

John Coltrane: A Love Supreme

There are many good sources of information about John Coltrane and plenty of criticism, to boot. 

Suffice it to say that, immediately upon first hearing Trane in 1990 with the 1961 Atlantic Records album, My Favorite Things, he became a perpetual fixture in the playlist of this listener and struck a chord (!) with a passion, intensity and emotional and spiritual expression unmatched by just about any other musician. 

There is much to enjoy in any of Trane's incredibly prolific career, mostly within the decade of 1957-1967, from the Prestige years to the Atlantic era and to the Impulse! period, and so much diversity with ballads, introspective mid-tempo pieces, high-energy compositions, blues tracks and everything and anything in between.

The pinnacle of this great saxophonist's work may well be 1965's A Love Supreme.  The four-part suite is a little less than 33 minutes, but every moment is beautifully expressed and expertly played by Trane and his colleagues: McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums.)

Accepting that perfection may be impossible, it is hard to imagine any recording coming closer than this.  There are moments of blinding intensity, thoughtful introspection, and quiet beauty.  All players show off their considerable talents and there is not, to these layperson's ears, a wasted note at any point.  This album is simply breathtaking, inspiring and uplifting.

A 2002 deluxe edition features a second disc with the only complete live rendering, at the Antibes festival in France from July 1965, and alternate takes of two parts, including versions of the opening movement with a sextet featuring Art Davis on bass and Archie Shepp on tenor sax.  There is also a 32-page booklet with the original liner notes, essays, analysis and great photos.   For those desiring to know more, Ashley Kahn's book, A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album, was published around the time of the reissue from Viking Press.

There will be much more about John Coltrane on this blog, but this seemed like the most fitting place to start.

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