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Sunday, 1 May 2011

John Coltrane - 'A Love Supreme' (Impulse!)

This ended up on my shelf because I got it for free or someone left it at my house or for some other reason like that. I'm not making an excuse because A Love Supreme is certainly nothing to be ashamed of; but I never actually listen to it, or any other Coltrane records for that matter. And I'm not sure why - I mean, certainly there's a lifetime of rewards to pull out of the grooves on all of those classics (or between the 1s and 0s here). Maybe I'm just a bit sick of hearing about A Love Supreme, and I just never came across any of the others on vinyl. This is certainly the Coltrane album that graces the most university dormitory CD shelves -- wait, who am I kidding? College kids don't own physical pressings of music anymore! But regardless, this is an insanely venerated record that is certainly a bold, confident statement of emerging free jazz spirituality -- I just prefer the more discordant explorations of the Alice/Ali years. Particularly Sun Ship! Now that's a record. But actually listening to A Love Supreme is a supremely harmonious act; the tone of Coltrane's sax is like a giant buttery raft and the Garrison/Tyner interplay is as telepathic as reputed. Everything swirls in a big ball of magic and it's a sound that has become such a template over the past half-century that is almost sounds clichéd. There are some solos of note - or duos at times, like Tyner's leading of the middle part of 'Resolution', with chords so perfectly chosen and Garrison/Jones responding to the chopping with the perfect support. Garrison's solo in 'Pursuance' has that classic, elegant feel, like a wood nymph stepping confidently out of the darkness, wrigging in the spotlight for a bit, and then retreating to some other role. I think a good reason for A Love Supreme's popularity is how peaceful and content it feels, and that it comes just on the precipice of total madness in his own life. Crescent, from about the same time, is just as confident (from what I remember) and it's like one last glance backwards before taking the door to Interstellar Space. Maybe I also have a bit of a snobby elitist chip on my shoulder, just thinking about how for many this might be the one free jazz or Coltrane disc they own. And ironically, the latter is true for me.

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