A LOVE SUPREME

ONE THING LEADS TO ANOTHER ……….

Jimmy Cobb (January 20,1929 – May 24, 2020) drummer on Miles Davis’s ‘Kind of Blue,’ Dies at 91.

New York Time Obituary, March 7, 2020 – McCoy Tyner, Jazz Piano Powerhouse, Is Dead at 81

Jimmy Cobb’s passing was a reminder of the classic Miles Davis album KIND OF BLUE recorded and released in late 1959. This album started jazz musicians down the modal path of musical improvisation and innovation.

Like wise McCoy Tyner’s passing was a reminder of that other jazz modal master piece –  John Coltrane’s  A LOVE SUPREME. This was a four part jazz suite recorded during December 1964 with John Coltrane on Tenor Sax, Elvin Jones on drums, Jimmy Garrison on bass and McCoy Tyner on piano.

As described in wikipedia: A Love Supreme is a suite with four parts: “Acknowledgement” (which includes the oral chant that gives the album its name), “Resolution”, “Pursuance”, and “Psalm”. Coltrane plays tenor saxophone on all parts. One critic has written that the album was intended to represent a struggle for purity, an expression of gratitude, and an acknowledgement that the musician’s talent comes from a higher power. Coltrane’s home Dix Hills, Long Island, may have inspired the album. Another influence may have been Ahmadiyya Islam.

The album begins with the bang of a gong (tam-tam) and cymbal washes. Jimmy Garrison enters on double bass with the four-note motif that lays the foundation of the movement. Coltrane begins a solo. He plays variations on the motif until he repeats the four notes thirty-six times. The motif then becomes the titular vocal chant “A Love Supreme”, sung by Coltrane accompanying himself through overdubs nineteen times. In the fourth and final movement, “Psalm”, Coltrane performs what he calls a “musical narration”. Lewis Porter calls it a “wordless recitation”. The devotional is included in the liner notes. Coltrane “plays” the words of the poem on saxophone but doesn’t speak them. Some scholars have suggested that this performance is an homage to the sermons of African-American preachers. The poem (and, in his own way, Coltrane’s solo) ends with the cry, “Elation. Elegance. Exaltation. All from God. Thank you God. Amen.”

To my knowledge there is no videos available of a complete Coltrane performance but there are fragments of performances scattered across YouTube. In place of that there is the excellent complete performance by the Bradford Marsalis Quartet recorded in Amsterdam in 2003.

Brandon Marsalis – Tenor Saxophone
Joey Calderazzo – Piano
Jeff Tain Watts – Drums
Eric Revis – Doublebass

This performance and the original Coltrane performance is not light weight music. It is a deeply spiritual composition and calling it intense is not and understatement. The music  would not be to everyone taste. But having said that for anyone interested in jazz it is a classic recording and should be on every jazz fan’s shelf

For anyone interested in information about the music and the recording I suggest the publication A LOVE SUPREME – The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Recording by Ashley Kahn published in 2002.

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