Agony Shorthand

Wednesday, April 09, 2003
A LIVE SUPREME....I vacuumed up a complete 50-minute live rendition of JOHN COLTRANE's "A Love Supreme" suite via my 28.8k modem this week, and had a good listen to it yesterday. The fantastic "A Love Supreme" LP is getting renewed and richly deserved critical hosannas this year thanks to the new "A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album" book by ASHLEY KAHN, and the reissue of the album in deluxe 2-CD form, including what I believe includes the complete live performance that I found. This is of course with St. John's classic quartet of Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Garrison, and they are stretching what was already a exploratory, "higher spiritual consciousness" suite into even more out-there, beautiful racket territory. As one who is somewhat skeptical of 1960s "New Thing" jazz -- let's put it differently; I don't yet appreciate the higher-plane glories of atonal, improvisational honking and squirting -- I have to say that when Coltrane & his A-team pushed the boundaries, they really made it work. This has much of the familiar structure of "A Love Supreme", but with less controlled tenor sax squealing & more chances for the music to go off wherever it wants to. Coltrane doesn't appear to be the one "commanding" his troops; each member sounds like he's been given free reign to take the Love Supreme coda and work it however he wants, within a set of real loose boundaries.

Of course, they took free jazz much, much further after 1965, so much so that Tyner and Jones either quit the quartet or were nudged out -- check out the excellent excerpt from Ashley Kahn's book in the March 2003 issue of free newspaper ARTHUR for the details.