Friday, 4 January 2008



This is a record that has had books written about it so realistically from a critical stance there really isn’t much that I can bring to the table other than personal emotion and recollection.

If ever people bemoan the sound that is jazz (as they invariably do), I will always spring to defence of the art form using records such as A Love Supreme as a prime example of the power and beauty that the music can hold.  Sure there is shitty jazz music but there is shitty music in absolutely every genre.  Some genres even have more than their fair share/entitlement of dross.  I won’t deny that jazz will often be cheesy or noisily indulgent but equally there can be no doubting the passion of a record such as this.  Coltrane was looking and aiming for some kind of ascended spiritual plane and was going to tell us how to join him.  With A Love Supreme he pretty much achieved it.

There is a distinct warmth attached to this record.  Indeed the opening bars of “Acknowledgement” never fails to derive the kind of goosebump reaction that little other music achieves.  The bass of Jimmy Garrison is audibly saying “a love supreme” prior to Coltrane dropping in and flying away with the composition (the movement).  The man literally soars in his playing and effectively manages to take the listener with him.  This is the sound of a most passionate time imaginable.

When the track comes to a climax seven minutes later a vocal chant of “a love supreme” grips proceedings and drives home the intention of the work, delivers its message hard and clear.  It does not get much cooler than this.

John Coltrane was a gift from God.  His motions were those of a preacher and peace followed him into his work.  His work was done at his pace and the audience would be wise to adapt.  The words force, sincerity and drive were all attached to his music in one flow.  Those and earnest.

With the tone now established, the album swings into wonder with “Resolution”.  As Coltrane plays like he is having a personal conversation the band explodes around him until Garrison runs through with another lead baseline and McCoy Tyner takes over seemingly responding to Coltrane’s compassion.  Within his playing Tyner appears to be speaking to himself, offering his call and response via slick trickery.  Then just as the tune reaches the top of the mountain tenor sax swoops back in and regains a stronghold on proceedings and everything is indeed resolved.  By the close the track comes full circle and the soaring strands of Coltrane’s entry once again sends the song high into the stratosphere.

The fourth member of the quartet was Elvin Jones who’s pummelling beats offer a magnificent manner of worship conjuring what feels an affecting storm that plays out in the background serving to hold things together and maintain the listener’s attention while the front players relay their message.

With this in mind it is quite fitting that “Pursuance” opens with a drum solo and deserved centre stage for a most valuable player.  Then Coltrane drops in a sense of freedom grips the moment, grips the motion as a frenzied exploration takes hold and McCoy Tyner returns to the fore.  As ever the leader holds back before choosing the right time to return and storm the composition by which point a crazed pulse of playing has taken hold and everyone is performing at breakneck speed and a legendary intensity.  You could pursue harder.

Listened to as an indie rock fan by this stage this work is sounding like Tortoise to me.  This is punk in its purest form.  The playing is tight and hard and of a higher, deeper meaning and level.  This goes beyond music, becoming a most personal form of expression and art.

As “Pursuance” dissolves into a few measured moments from Garrison, the record finally closes “Psalm” and the final thoughts of Coltrane.  It rears into life with a subtle rumble and the playing of saxophone as if it were speaking words.  The peaceful closing to proceedings remains one of a yearning, of a tangible sensation and the offering of a gift to above.  The naked conclusion glistens offering an emotion similar to that of a sunset and the passing of a day (the passing of time).  It sounds anxious in delivery but comforting in existence.  What more could you want?

Then with one final thunder rumble it is done.  A masterpiece made and a world enhanced.

I wish I could remember first buying this album.  Where I got it from and how I felt.  At what age was I blessed and where was my existence at the time.  Sometimes with music you buy into things too much but with A Love Supreme you cannot buy it enough.

Thesaurus moment: nirvana.

No comments: