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    Album Review: John Coltrane – A Love Supreme

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    john_coltrane-a_love_supremeClassical music afficionados have Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, Rock fans have The Beatles’ White Album. Jazz fans have A Love Supreme. If you’ve read my post about essential jazz recordings, you know that I ranked this album as #1. John Coltrane’s masterpiece is a winner on so many different levels. Let’s take a closer look.

    The Concept:

    A Love Supreme is an album written, recorded and performed by John Coltrane. Other musicians that perform on the album include McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums. The album was seen by Coltrane as his gift to God. A humble offering that expresses a deep thankfulness, commitment and love to God. While many people speculate about which God Coltrane is paying tribute to in this album (Coltrane was apparently a deeply spiritual person who was raised Christian, but had an interest in many different religions), it is most likely a tribute to the “true” God, ie the one that really exists, whether Christian, Islamic or something else. I don’t believe Coltrane was making any statement about “which” God, but just about God. In other words, I think Coltrane is saying: “God, Whatever your name is, wherever you are, whoever you are, I present to you this humble offering of my love for you”. Some people believe that he is praising Allah, and have a problem with the album from a Christian point of view, but I think that Coltrane is just saying that he loves the creator, whoever it may be.

    A Love Supreme is a suite, with four distinct parts. They are “Acknowledgement”, “Resolution”, “Persuance”, and “Psalm”. Let’s take a look at each part.


    Acknowledgement begins with a bassline that sounds like “A Love Supreme” spoken. This bass part continues throughout the song to give the song a forward moving kind of vibe. Almost like climbing a mountain. It is symbolic of Coltrane, remaining continuously faithful. The sax parts on this first movement are complimentary to the slower tempo. Towards the end of the first part, Coltrane begins chanting “A Love Supreme”. Symbolically, the song represents Coltrane’s acknowledgement of God, and his acknowledgement of his own talents, which come from God.


    Resolution begins with a short bass solo, at which point Coltrane begins playing. This song is a nod to the atonal style that Coltrane would later adopt, although it is not nearly as atonal as Coltrane’s work would later become. The melody is still very catchy and melodic, and at times sounds like some of Coltrane’s earlier work. Symbolically, this song seems to say that thanks to God, Coltrane has resolved his personal difficulties. It reflects on his earlier work, while looking forward to the future.


    Persuance is without a doubt the climax of the album. It begins with a lengthy drum solo that fades out, and Coltrane begins playing. After a short part by Coltrane, McCoy Tyner begins a fast tempo piano solo. I always feel like this part represents Coltrane mentally preparing himself for a highly passionate “peresuance” of the awesomeness of God. When Coltrane begins playing again, he is in top form. He is playing fast, passionately, and intense. There is no doubt to me that while Coltrane played this legendary part, he was having a highly spiritual moment. Every time I hear it, I can feel the intense emotions that must have been going through his head at the moment this part was recorded. This is one of the most magical musical moments ever experienced by me. Of course, after such an intense burst of emotion, Coltrane was exhausted. The song ends with a slow bass outro.


    The final part of the suite is known as Psalm. This part is unique, because it is a musical narration of a devotional poem written by Coltrane and included in the liner notes of the album. The sax parts are “speaking” the poem. This part of the suite is slow and solemn, and reflects Coltrane’s very deep love for God. For those that take the time and attention to listen closely, this albums will leave you a changed person.

    A Love Supreme went on to be one of the most highly regarded jazz albums in history. It has been on many “best of jazz” lists, as well as “best album” (in any genre) lists. Time Magazine recognized it, as did Rolling Stone. It has been covered, imitated and re-imagined over and over by many musicians, both known and unknown. A few notables who have taken a crack at it are John McLaughlin, Carlos Santana, and Branford Marsallis.

    What sets A Love Supreme apart from just about anything ever released is just how magnetic and powerful it is. The emotions that come through the music are intense and real. The message is one of positivity and love and reverence, and a serious listening of this album is a mind-changing experience.

    Let me say it right now: I don’t care who your favorite musician is, or what your favorite music is, or who you are, or where you come from. If you love music, you need this album. You will never hear music with this kind of power on anything ever written or performed to this date. In addition to A Love Supreme being the best jazz album ever released, it is no doubt one of the best albums released in any genre.

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