Artist: John Coltrane
Album: A Love Supreme
Genre: Modal Jazz / Free Jazz / Hard Bop
“A Love Supreme
A Love Supreme
A Love Supreme”
Now comes the fun part of the end of a vacation: Unpacking. I had left my suitcase fully packed for a few days and figured I’d get around to doing it eventually. Needed my parents telling me to do it about fifty times before I actually did it. Not my fault (well yes it is) but I had made a long list of things to do for the weekend before I make my move to Toronto, so I was occupied with getting things done on it (plus some cool down from the 25 hour drive back from Florida).
Enough was enough I guess, so I made my way to my room and figured, Hey, I can listen to the next album on the list as I do that. I figured it’s another instrumental jazz album, perfect music to do chores to. Just put it on in the background and work away.
It took me about 6 minutes to unpack, which means I barely got through one song (remember too, these jazz albums have long, free-form songs that sometimes feels like ages to get through, so it’s not very surprising when you think about it). My attempts to listen to another album weren’t successful, but it didn’t matter, I would listen to it… eventually.
Wasting no time, I was getting some writing done this morning and decided to have it play as I wrote. I love listening to music as I write. I find it pumps me up and gets me focused on the page, cranking out words and pages as the music blares in my ears. It may seem odd, but it works. Music is the key to me being productive. I play it to get work done, to do chores, to basically make sure I’m focused on what I need to do. Maybe it’s because it blocks out every thing else around me and prevents me from getting easily distracted, but who knows. It’s a good assumption.
So here we are. John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme had blurted it’s way through my writing session and I found myself at a loss for words. Not because the album itself is breath-takingly amazing that it left me speechless (although according to all the reviews of this album it would say otherwise) but because I found myself, once again, struggling to talk about a Jazz album. As I have said many times before, I am not proficient in the stylings of Jazz. For the most part I have no idea what I’m talking about and usually try my best to vocalise the feelings the music created within me. Because I don’t understand what makes a good jazz album a good jazz album, it’s hard for me to really delve into the depths of the musical proficiency of any jazz album, but damn do I try my best. It’s really come to the point that I really don’t know what to say without repeating myself from previous posts and I think there was the benefit that I had to sit through albums of varying genres before arriving on another Jazz album (which was practically every single album right at the beginning of the list). I can probably name ten people I know who could do a better job at talking about this album, but you know what? I’m a person who loves music and has opinions too, so I think I am more than capable at doing this.
If I was going to speak based on what everyone else has said about this album I would probably say that this is one of the greatest jazz albums of all time, if not the best. It is one of the most critically acclaimed jazz albums of all times and widely considered to be Mr. Coltrane’s masterpiece. Created as a four-part suite, Coltrane went in trying to master a more spiritual album than any he had made before. According to him, this wasn’t him playing the saxophone but his saxophone taking control of him (widely paraphrased). I honestly won’t disagree with that. He plays his saxophone with so much glee and child-like enthusiasm it’s hard not to think he just lost himself into the music and did whatever came to his mind. He’s clearly having a lot of fun in the studio and comes across as if he was possessed by some sort of jazz playing ghost. He blurps and spurts his way through fast-playing notes and quick arrangements, mixed in with some complex saxophone burping and you got a one hell of a musical experience. If someone told me this was the spirit of jazz, I would accept it.
It doesn’t end there. The rest of the band joins Coltrane in this spiritual connection and play their instruments with almost as much (and at times maybe even more) glee as Coltrane. The drummer, Elvin Jones, smacks away at his kit like an infant who just discovered pots and pans make noise, although here he makes it sound good (unlike your 2-year old who has no skills in keeping the beat whatsoever, no matter what you tell yourself). The bassist, Jimmy Garrison, for the most part keeps it simple, forming the base (ha base) of the music, but doesn’t hold back when it’s his time to shine. He’s given quite the nice solo in Pursuance and doesn’t waste his moment. It wasn’t anything crazy but sometimes a more melodic approach is more effective than how many notes you can hit in a short amount of time.
This is where I wish I knew more about the music behind Jazz because for the most part… it just sounds like a jumble of notes to me. I mean, it is a very effective jumble of notes, but it’s really difficult for me to analyse why this particular jumble of notes is better than any other. I will say this though, John Coltrane went into this feeling at his most spiritual and being heavily influenced and driven by his religious beliefs that it adds a layer to the music that may have not been there before. If I hadn’t read about it, I may not have noticed, but it did give me a whole new perspective on the album and explained a lot of things I didn’t quite grasp from my first hearing. He does come across as one with his music and really let’s it all out with every feeling he’s got creating something deeper than he even expected to make I think. There is that subtext there, which might be difficult for the average listener to hear (such as myself), especially due to the absence of lyrics (other than his “A Love Supreme” mantra he chants briefly in the first song), but it’s definitely there and goes to prove that sometimes the music is enough to provoke. A sort of show don’t tell situation that works on it’s own accord.
Not my favourite, but can see why this touched the hearts of many jazz lovers.
Song of Choice: Pursuance