A Love Supreme / John Coltrane

A three-part meditation on an intellectually unknowable creator and deity? 

A song cycle that endeavors to return the essence of God to you, and infuse it directly into your soul?

A metaphysical romp that seeks to represent the universality of man by presenting a collective of musicians, so in tune with each other, as to break down ego and barriers, and represent the incomprehensible oneness of humanity? 

Why not? 

Coltrane composed this music with such spiritual concerns in mind, and it was meant as an declaration of such an ephemeral concept. It doesn't seek to define God, only to feel it. God is taken as a given, although agnostic, and even atheistic, beliefs could slide into such a spiritual experiment. It is about touching the unknowable, not vulgar projection. And if, indeed, there is no objective reality that can be called "God" in a traditional sense, it is an album of searching for the balm to the spiritual quest that is neurologically hard-wired in us. It is about discovering peace and one's place in the universe. 

This is an album to wade into, and slowly learn to immerse oneself in. It can be tranquilizing (in a good way), and even healing. And, oddly, it swings, although less heavily than he was certainly capable of doing. 

It is beautiful, of course. Coltrane's playing is rarely anything short of sublime, and here, he is at his artistic and expressive peak. It is said that Ravi Shankar, a friendly acquaintance and a musician of similar bent, and one with whom Trane was scheduled to go and study with (he, Coltrane, died before he got the chance), smiled upon hearing it. Coltrane had been experimenting with dissonance and free jazz, and Shankar said he was making "ugly, angry music".  A Love Supreme, he said, was the sound of a man who had rediscovered his joy. 

His whole band is exceptional, but Elvin Bishop's playing here should be required listening for any drummer. His gift was to slide into the music, accenting not just the main melodies, but the sub-melodies and their implications. By doing so, he created a fuller and richer sound, one that allows for breath and space, and the manipulation of such. 

To do so, one must be completely in tune with one's fellow musicians. And if Elvin had the knock of playing "busy", he also had an inherent musicality that allowed him to add depth and beauty other drummers simply could not. McCoy Tyner lays down the perfect harmonic bed, and Jimmy Garrison provides a rich and melodic swing. 

It truly is a revolutionary set, but that does not mar it's easy expressiveness. It has a classicist sensibility, while keeping an eye on the avant-garde. Virtually every emotion is touched, here, and all are given deep and keen observation.


 

 

 

 

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