Wednesday, October 25, 2017

'A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album' (2002)

In the last post, we considered the merits of Russell Martin's Picasso's War: The Destruction of Guernica, and the Masterpiece That Changed the World. New York: Dutton, 2002.  In this one, let's consider the similarly structured A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album by Ashley Kahn (New York: Viking, 2002). 

Kahn's study provides the backstory, big and little, of A Love Supreme (1965) -- John Coltrane's life, the jazz scene specifically and the greater scene in general; how the album came to be recorded on December 9, 1964 with experimental follow-up on the next night; its release and immediate impact; Coltrane's career until his death in 1967; and the album's enduring, long-term impact, including re-release in CD format and beyond. A wonderful read.
Over the years, I've acquired multiple copies of A Love Supreme. Here, images of the verso of two of my CD copies.
From Coltrane's liner notes, quoted on page 123: '"Words, sounds, speech, men, memory, thoughts, fears and emotions -- time -- all related . . . all made from one."'

The impact of Trane and A Love Supreme is far-reaching, especially among musicians, writers and other artists. 

Carlos Santana: '"The first time I heard A Love Supreme, it really was an assault. It could've been from Mars as far as I was concerned, or another galaxy . . . It was like trying to tell a monkey about spirituality or computers, you know . . .'" (page xviii). 

Ravi Shankar: "'I have been so moved by this record . . . It's beautiful . . .'" (page xxiii).

Patti Smith in high school: "'. . . Coltrane spoke to my soul and my developing intellect.'" (page 73).

Branford Marsalis: "'You know Led Zeppelin's 'Whole Lotta Love?' . . . That's the bass line in the first section of A Love Supreme . . .'" (page 99)

Rick James: "'Most of the white boys I was hanging out with in Toronto in 1965 were down with Coltrane . . . Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young. That's one of the good things about the musical experience there . . . everybody had A Love Supreme.'" (page 160).

Patti Smith (again): "'I can't say why it's so popular, but perhaps it fulfills people's need for prayer . . . A Love Supreme has a feeling of moral authority in the most humble and spiritual way.'" (page 212).  

"Four decades on, A Love Supreme continues to be felt and to matter . . . [i]n sound, spirit, and name, its arc of influence and inspiration remains unbroken and, like the transitory elements that helped create it, poignantly unrepeatable." (page 213).

An added bonus for me is that A Love Supreme was recorded on December 9 -- my birthday!

Today's Rune: Initiation. 


t said...

One hears 'about' these things. Thank you for sharing - teaching... I'm listening now and hmmm, a lot to love about it.

the walking man said...

I get why people like Coltrane and Jazz in general; the way every note is a brushstroke across the canvass--I simply have a hard time with what sounds like discordance to me. My shortcomings not the music.

Charles Gramlich said...

Gonna give it a listen. I've probably heard snatches of it but I don't know for sure.

UplayOnline said...

I'm listening now and hmmm, a lot to love about it.


Erik Donald France said...

Thanks all for the comments!

Indeed, WM, not to everyone's taste is jazz (as with other types of things). But for some reason I've always dug it.