By James Calemine
Born September 23, 1930, John Coltrane grew up in Hamlet, North Carolina. He moved to Philadelphia after high school. Coltrane spent a year in the Navy, and in 1947 he joined Dizzy Gillespie’s band where he stayed until 1951. Coltrane’s lyrical saxophone resonates a distinct, unmistakable sound.
He apprenticed with band leaders Earl Bostic, Eddie Vinson, Jimmy Heath and Johnny Hodges. Coltrane later performed and recorded with Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Red Garland, Duke Ellington, Elvin Jones and many others.
Coltrane’s career was brief, but prolific. He remains a cornerstone jazz musician even when his deep and wide improvisation often drew criticism. Coltrane’s peaceful demeanor and musical virtuosity commanded an iconic presence. In the late 50s he kicked heroin and recorded some of his greatest work. Coltrane’s spiritual pursuits allowed him to augment droning ragas, mantras, southern blues and astral jazz into his compositions.
Classic Coltrane releases include A Love Supreme, Giant Steps, Interstellar Space, My Favorite Things, Blue Trane, Crescent, and Live At the Village Vanguard to name a few. It’s difficult to pin down one John Coltrane studio recording and say this is THE ONE, but if you had to do it A Love Supreme contends as a strong choice.
Recorded in December of 1964, with his classic quartet–Elvin Jones, Jimmy Garrison and McCoy Tyner–Coltrane would only live a little over two more years. He died of liver at the age of 40.
On A Love Supreme Coltrane breaks down the 33-minute album into four parts: Acknowledgement, Resolution, Pursuance, and Psalm. The music, for the most part evokes a reflective, peaceful mood, but often Coltrane’s talent lies in his ability to hit a certain note and evoke a dark or eerie emotion heard in any listening environment.
Coltrane’s meditative theme in his music mirrored his spiritual convictions and pursuits that inspired this jazz classic. Before one ventures into some of Coltrane’s more dissonant recordings, A Love Supreme remains a vital introductory source to hear John Coltrane’s immense talent.
You can read more about John Coltrane in Insured Beyond The Grave Vol.2.