I am no expert and I do not pretend to be a jazz scholar, but I do know and understand what moves me deeply, and I am doing my best to understand the motivations and intricacies of a genre that has been variously called “America’s Classical Music” and BAM – Black American Music (along with numerous genres that fall under that umbrella) that I seem to connect with on a spiritual level. And it’s no wonder to those that understand this better than I do at the core of my being. Jazz and its associated genres, including some early pop and soul, have been linked to spirituality in various forms to many prominent and underappreciated jazz musicians.
To be properly heard and experienced at full fidelity, this album should be played on a stereo system with a needle hitting the vinyl at full volume so you can hear the subtleties that can be lost in the corner of a club with a few instruments in the back. Listening to this on a computer or an mp3 will probably sound slightly amateurish, as one commenter on the album’s Discogs.com vinyl page complained shortly after I purchased the vinyl, when he complained that Impulse! Records was releasing bootlegs now. Yes, it is a recording by a huge fan, and he did make an effort to place the mics where the music could be mostly captured, those far corners in the back, notwithstanding. But if you have 5.1 speakers on your stereo and turn the volume up enough, you’ll hear the subtleties in the performances and you’ll get a close approximation to the original club experience. This is Coltrane and his band, studied and in the wild in a nightclub. It can’t get much better than this unless they were reaching their higher heights in a church, and trust me when I say the music is a religious church experience to some of us.
This adventure begins as a slow build with, “A Love Supreme, Pt. I – Acknowledgement,” with each member of the band reaching higher and higher into their boundless explorations of the cosmos through an ebb and flow of each instrument moving individually and collectively in asynchronous and synchronous chaos of the theoretical kind to pay tribute to the Divine. As we listen deeper and longer, the band begins to burst into energetic forces that seemingly cannot be contained by the limits of the stage, and listeners far removed, from the future of their 21st century computer speakers become very aware of the importance of the Universal message that Coltrane and his quintet (with newly added Pharoah Sanders on an additional saxophone) were so enthusiastic about for that limitless but momentary space of time.
“A Love Supreme, Pt. III – Pursuance” continues the journey as Sanders continues to reach for the infinite, while I sense that he is becoming a little frustrated by the limitations of his instrument. McCoy’s piano interjects in hot pursuit with Elvin’s drums keep pace. The interludes allow the bass to wax, wane, and explore the outer and inner reaches of the musical messages that are being explored. “Interlude II” sees Elvin cutting harder and harder to become unbounded by the strictures that his drums have placed upon him, while the bass continues its accompaniment in the background.
This might be the quietest, most polite audience I have ever encountered in a recording or in a live venue in person, but then again, this is Coltrane and hushed awe and respect should be the order of the day. The audience is appreciative, but I wonder if they understand what they are witnessing on a spiritual level. I still struggle to understand the spirituality of Coltrane, Ra and an infinite number of freeform jazz artists, but I immerse myself in everything so some form of understanding will eventually be revealed to me, I hope and suspect. I do know that I am led to calm and spiritually energetic peace listening to a variety of jazz almost daily.
An endnote: This and the Sun Ra reviews are my first written on the work of any jazz artist, and admittedly, Ra and Coltrane are a bit overwhelming to take on for the first time for someone used to writing about Indie Folk, Rock, Antifolk, and a few other genres, but I feel as though it is important to expose anyone making the effort to visit this website to a wide variety of music and ideas as I have done in my personal life. And in these explorations, I generally attempt to provide an essence of what to expect from an auditory experience through visual imagery, so hopefully that is on display here. If you want to offer any suggestions for improvement of these occasional reviews that I will probably continue, I am always open to constructive criticism.
To purchase the album, in whatever format you choose, please visit John Coltrane’s official website, here.
RadioMike, 5 February 2023