Tag: jazz

A Love Supreme, Love Supreme, Love Supreme

cross-posted from The Dream Antilles


John Coltrane (1926-1967)

Last night I found myself on a Continental 757 heading again for Newark, city of my birth, one of those tough places, a gritty, rusty place I return to repeatedly.

To my amazement, one of the audio selections available on the flight was John Coltrane’s seminal 1964 recording “A Love Supreme.”  This album is one of Coltrane’s greatest works, and it is repeatedly listed as one of the greatest jazz albums of all time.  Why was I amazed?  True, it was the 48th album of the 50 available.  It should have been first.  True, it was the 2002, redigitalized version (I am such a snob).  It should have been the original vinyl.  But forget all of that, there it was.  I hadn’t listened to it from beginning to end without interruption in more than 30 years.  So yesterday I listened again to “A Love Supreme.”  What a delight.

The recording has four parts: “Acknowledgement” (which contains the famous Love Supreme, Love Supreme mantra), “Resolution”, “Pursuance”, and “Psalm.”   The recording (can we still call it an album or make believe it’s classical and call it a suite?) is the culmination in many ways of what Coltrane began in Giant Steps and Chasing the Trane.  It’s modal.  It’s free.  It’s totally inventive.  It’s astonishing.  “Psalm,” the final part, the part I love most, is what Coltrane calls a “musical narration” of the devotional poem he included in the liner notes. In other words, Coltrane “plays” the words of the poem, but does not actually speak them.  In this you can hear the sounds of devotional sermons of African-American preachers, Jewish and Muslim chanting, African singing, sounds of the street, the hum of Newark or Philadelphia, the voices from Coltrane’s heart. Coltrane’s solo ends with him playing the words “Elation. Elegance. Exaltation. All from God. Thank you God. Amen.”  I say, “Amen, Amen, Amen.”

What a striking, incredible performance.  How can it be that 44 years after it was recorded, “A Love Supreme” remains so fresh, alive, exciting, expressive, deep?

A Love Supreme was recorded one December evening in Rudy Van Gelder’s legendary studio in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Pianist McCoy Tyner remembers the unusual, almost magical atmosphere surrounding the session. “Rudy that day dimmed the lights in his studio. I’d never seen him do that and it sort of set an atmosphere. There was just something very, very special about that particular session.”

Drummer Elvin Jones says Coltrane “never wrote out any music for us. When he played we more or less had to imagine, or feel, how to interpret the song. And it got to the point where I felt I was almost part of his mind, almost telepathic in a way.”

The quartet, which also included bassist Jimmy Garrison, needed little more than the seed of a melodic idea when it hit the studio. Tyner adds: “We had been playing some of that music and we didn’t know what it was going to be until we got into the studio. And then it all came together.”

Coltrane constructed the suite’s main theme around a simple four-note pattern – based on the words “a love supreme.”


The playing of the quartet on this recording is unbelievably wonderful.  From the very first sound of a gong on “Acknowledgement”, through the initial four notes Garrison plays on bass, through incredible drum solos by Elvin Jones (how can he do all of that?), through McCoy Tyner’s unbelievably complex piano dexterity, to Coltrane’s final, mind altering solo, the quartet at once plays together and individually, and it stretches the music out beyond anything rote, beyond the anticipated, beyond the possible, into the ionosphere.  Remember please that this is music from the era when jazz players were justifiably revered for their genius. The skilled playing, the inventiveness of the improvisation, the faith of the players in each other, their mutual support of the themes culminates in my head shaking slowly, side to side, bliss, joy, ecstacy, nirvana, Om ah Hum.

As I fly toward Newark, my birthplace, with this quartet in my ears, I remember the Newark of the ’60’s.  The riot.  The killing.  The incessant crimes.  The discrimination, poverty, unemployment, oppression, racism.  The Projects.  The desperation. I can hear all of that in this music, welling up, speaking out, clenching its fist, and then opening it again in transcendence.  And I wonder, “What would Coltrane have made of Obama?”

Let’s ask Obama to have New Orleans musicians play at the Inaugural

(NOTE: This diary was originally posted on Daily Kos by azureblue, a musician who got his start in New Orleans. Per a request he made to readers in a comment under that diary, I am crossposting it here–because he and I feel this is an idea that needs as much attention and exposure as possible so hopefully Obama will pick up on it.)

The title says it all, but this grew out of a discussion last night about Obama’s love for jazz, and the possibility of him having jazz players at the inauguration:

Friday Night at 8: Jazz and Such

Miss Sarah Vaughn (“I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” featuring a young Bob James (Fourplay) on piano with Larry Rockwell, bass and Omar Clay, drums; courtesy of YouTuber pixaninny)

and Miss Sarah Vaughn (“Perdito” circa 1955 musicians unknown, courtesy of YouTuber JazzVideoGuy)

See I like to sing harmony, that’s my favorite, even in choir in school I loved the vibrations I’d feel when singing with a big group of voices and we’re all singing different parts and it comes together as one sound, that’s a rush.

50th Annual MJF-For Nightprowlkitty

Friday Night
Dave Holland, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Chris Potter, Eric Harland

Dave Holland is a cerebral bassist whose works are always introspective and interesting. Rubalcaba is a fine Cuban pianst whose powerful playing
helps set off Holland’s quieter moods. A great, tight group-very cool.

John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension

McLaughlin is a great musician and guitarrist. He was back to his 70’s fusion style here though, and with the rain starting, it was an ordeal. Too many notes.

Issac Delgado

Listened to him on the way home, in the pouring rain. As the arena venue is outside, we bailed before the deluge hit. September rain is very rare here. Wasn’t particularly impressed with what I heard, kind of popish and certainly not the latin standard of Puente or Tjader in years past.

Saturday Afternoon-dedicated to the blues

James Hunter

This guy was on fire! An English band doing 50’s style blues and rock & roll. Hunter was funny, energetic and capable of sounding like anyone from Sam Cook to Chuck Berry, to Fats Domino Little Richard and James Brown. He had a falsetto he could reach that was better than Brown’s screech and the moves to back it up. Very entertaining…give him a listen, but in person is the key.

Otis Taylor Band

Son of a blues legend, Taylor had his charming and beautiful daughter playing bass for him. Started his set playing banjo to a strong Louisiana blues backing. Went on to range over some traditional material. He was kind of reticent at first, but when he wound up, he was down on the arena floor shouting the blues and revving the joint up. Kind of a cajun smoked Delta sound.

Los Lobos

Tim Jackson, the festival head, must feel its necessary to bring in rock and roll groups that have a kind of appeal to younger fans or potential ticket buyers. Too loud, too much rock and roll. Short on blues and feeling.

Saturday Night

Terence Blanchard Quintet with Monterey Jazz Festival Chamber Orchestra – PREMIERING “REQUIEM FOR KATRINA”

One of the festival highlights for me. Very moving work done with string orchestral backing. Fantastic quintet with all the players very very good.  Place was as quiet as I’ve ever heard it, befitting the subject matter and  musical excellence.  This is out in CD….see if you can listen to it…beautifully done.

Gerald Wilson Orchestra with Special Guest Kenny Burrell Premiering “Monterey Moods”

Gerald Wilson is 89 and still leading, with gusto and verve, his own long standing band in his own composition comissioned for the fest. I didn’t like the pieces, all built around a 3 note theme to suggest the word Mon-te-rey, all that much, but there were moments. Kenny Burrell is a legend and a hero of mine as a jazz guitarrist whose playiing covers every facet of the guitar repetoire. He seemed a little out of place with the big band, and his playing wasn’t up to what I remember. Not the best use of his talents. But he too is getting older…must be in later 60’s now.?

Diana Krall

Had just seen her in concert in May at the Mountain Winery. Was impressed here with how she’d gotten her piano chops back into shape after marriage/twins. Her voice and sensibility with lyrics, as always, fantastic. She has matured into a confident and engaging performer.
Backed up by her trio plus Jeff Hamilton on drums. John Clayton, her bassist, and Hamilton have their own big band based in LA and are both consumate side-men. Her guitarrist, Anthony Wilson, is becoming quite a fine player and happens to be Gerald Wilson’s son. He also performed with his father on the Monterey Moods piece.

Sunday Afternoon:

Los Angeles County High School For The Arts / Winning Big Band from the Next Generation Festival Orchestra

Got there a bit late on Sunday p.m. The day is devoted to kids from all over showing off how they’ll keep jazz alive in the face of all the crappy pop stuff crowding the airwaves. It is always astounding to hear how sophisticated these youngsters are. They play their butts off, leaning into the music as only a teenager can do, with boundless energy and complete abandon. I missed this first group, but many were part of the next act as well.

Next Generation Jazz Orchestra with Artist-In-Residence Terence Blanchard

Blanchard played with these kids, not in front of them. It was great to watch him interact with all the players, from guitar to bass, and of course, with the horn section. The band played some very complex stuff, full of great harmonies and capped by high quality soloists.

Ornette Coleman 3 Bass Quintet

Its as hard to say anything meaningful about Ornette as it is to understand him sometimes. His quintet was a trip to listen to. Acoustic bass, stand-up electric bass, and a five-string ‘guitar’ bass w/ drums.
He played some of his typical avant avant avant guard stuff, and also some beautiful new stuff with haunting rhythms formed by all the crossing bass lines beneath his solos. Drummer was playing some amazing rhythmic stuff tying it all together. A couple of the pieces were so loaded w/harmonic overtones is was like listening to gongs playing melody…very cool. Then some of it was honk and squawk…which I’ve never resonated with, but one thing is for sure, Ornette is in a musical class by himself as a thinker and performer.

Sunday Evening:

Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All-Stars with Terence Blanchard, Nnenna Freelon, Benny Green, James Moody, Kendrick Scott & Derrick Hodge

Benny Green was leading this. He is a great young pianist with a powerful, be-bop influenced attack. The band was very tight and Blanchard’s quintet made up the backbone playing again with verve,
agility and feeling. Green was very engaging, I had no idea he was so young.  I didn’t particularly care for Nnenna Freelon’s vocals, but I don’t fault here, I don’t the arrangements were were suited to her talents.

Dave Brubeck Quartet with special guest Jim Hall

I would bet this was Dave’s last visit. He seemed quite old and frail, getting up slowly from the piano, and not saying very much except with his music. I had tears in my eyes listening as it took me back to my own youth in the early ’60’s when Brubeck was my introduction to jazz which became a lifelong love for me. Listening to Take 5, I could actually see myself on my bed, reading and digging Time Out/Time Further Out etc.,
and dreaming of how I would make it big as a flamenco player. Sweet and bitter sweet. Dave’s playing was great, given his age 84/5, and his band, all older guys, were as cool as can be. Jim Hall, like Burrell with Wilson, seemed a little lost, as though there hadn’t been much rehersal together. Hall is another of my guitar heroes, a guitarist in the Bill Evans mode of introspection.

Sonny Rollins

Knocked down the house completely. His colossal frame staggering around with his horn, blowing like a madman, bent to his task with love, passion and consummate feeling. His band was tearing it up behind him,
keeping him up and on top of his game. His last number was a long, extended caribbean-oriented piece a la St. Thomas that just blew us all away. He got standing O’s after every piece it seemed, and at the end, vowed to be back 50 years from now to play again as he did at the first festival. If you could have seen and heard him, of that you’d have no doubt!

So….50 years of jazz at Monterey in the books. One of the reasons I ended up here was because I wanted to be close to this, to feel the vibe, and to see my heros play before they went into the dark. I’ve been fortunate, in the last 25 years, to have attended a good many of them.
I got to see Diz, Tjader, Tito Puente, Oscar Peterson, Sarah Vaughn…on and on…never saw Miles or Bill Evans though, damnit. This year was a treat, because at almost 60, I realize I may not have all that much longer to listen, and the greats are passing from our lives all too quickly.

A Love Supreme

I remember when I first heard Coltrane blowing on “A Love Supreme.”  Was in the courtship phase with my ex-husband, went over to his apartment uptown in Spanish Harlem for the first time, we smoked some pot and he played me some music.

Up till then, although I knew almost all the standards from listening to Billie and Ella during my early adolescence, I had been sucked into the disco age with its hypnotizing mechanical beats and desperado misfit desires to dance oneself right out of reality.

This was quite a different scene, and one I took to immediately.  The first record my ex played for me was John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.”  I had never heard anything like it.

My ex told me that all the musicians were tripping when they first recorded the tune – well that is an apocryphal tale, but perhaps it’s true.

I am not any kind of authority on jazz — even as I’ve listened to so much of it, heard the jazzmen talk endlessly about it, I don’t remember half the names of the folks or half the anecdotes I heard.

So this is a personal reflection on Trane.