Classics: John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
A Love Supreme is a confessional statement. The album is an essential reference point in the evolution of jazz, the pinnacle of John Coltrane’s vivid career, one of the most thought-provoking channellings of artistry to ever bless the ears of the public.
While being hailed as an undeniable masterpiece, the album came to fruition out of devastating personal struggle. In the spring of 1957, Coltrane was fired from his employ as a member of the Miles Davis Quintet because of his rising dependence on heroin. Soon after his exit from the influential jazz troupe, he kicked his addiction, and began his path towards artistic purity that culminated with the recordings of his spiritual affection.
From the ceremonial awakening of ‘Acknowledgement’ – a gong rings in the abiding spiritual flutter of a tenor saxophone, introducing the undulating simplicity of a four-note bass line – the first movement of A Love Supreme creates the framework for an uninitiated ritual. The rhythms weave in and out of character creating a humble stream of necessity; this is intimate music characterized by thematic progression.
A Love Supreme plays like a divine service. The suite connects four phases of confessional blues, sequenced like “melody, harmony and rhythm” was the equivalent to “Father, Son and Holy Ghost”. The album ebbs and flows as a tidal wave, constantly moving between the fury of ‘Resolution’, the devotion of ‘Pursuance’, and the spirited beauty of ‘Psalm’. It is a technical concision of wonder listening to the saxophone-cries of Coltrane, with his solos conflict-ridden with catatonic violence and faithful emotionality, in search of a reaffirmation of his soul.
The emotional highs and lows of A Love Supreme makes for one of the most serene acts in the history of recorded music. The album is an exaltation of the gospel, a celebration of African-American culture, a marvel of musical sensibility. On these incredibly human recordings of existential gratitude, the saxophone is the mediator between the hand and the heart, an earnest testimony to the uncertainties of life that we need, though it may not be what we want. When talking about eternalizing the power of existence in art, John Coltrane and his cry for spiritual universality reign supreme.
A Love Supreme is available at a jazz retailer near you on The Verve/UMG via Universal.