John Coltrane – A Love Supreme – The Complete Masters Deluxe Edition – Verve Universal (2016) – Verve/Impulse

John Coltrane – A Love Supreme – The Complete Masters Deluxe Edition – Verve Universal (2016) B0023727-02/ Verve/Impulse (1963) stereo A-77, 3-CD box TT: 146:08 *****:

The long-awaited complete box set of Coltrane’s masterpiece has been released.

(John Coltrane – tenor saxophone; McCoy Tyner – piano; Jimmy Garrison – doublebass; Elvin Jones – drums; Archie Sheep – tenor saxophone; Art Davis – doublebass)

John Coltrane’s arduous climb to jazz stardom has been duly chronicled. In the tradition of Charlie Parker, he battled addiction to emerge as a musical force. As part of the original Miles Davis Quintet, he became a part of jazz history, playing on what many consider to be the greatest jazz album ever, Kind Of Blue. After leaving (or being fired) from the Quintet, Coltrane assumed his destiny as a bandleader. In particular, he recorded a group of live albums at the Village Vanguard that became classics. His no-holds-barred saxophone approach displayed a vibrant intensity that thrilled jazz fans. He also recorded occasional melodic standards, displaying versatility and deft touch.

By 1965, John Coltrane was at the peak of his career. He decided to record an album that reflected his spiritual transformation in 1957. A Love Supreme took the jazz world by storm. It’s unusual complexity and deep resonance was expressed in musical structures that exhilarated and confounded many listeners. Some called it modal, even avant-garde, while others thought it was blues abstraction. Regardless, the album (recorded in two days) became a huge critical and commercial success. The mystery of this composition (that consisted of one overall concept with four movements) was framed by a black & white cover photo of a serious Coltrane and no apparent track listing (although thy were listed on the inside label). A Love Supreme is regarded as one of the greatest musical albums of all time, included on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums.

CD 1 consists of the original stereo album and two mono tracks. The opening track (“Acknowledgement”) begins with an Elvin Jones song and is soon joined by Jimmy Garrison on a four note repeat. McCoy Tyner adds complementary chords that launch Coltrane’s tenor saxophone. His lines manage to be fluid and yet pushing the tonality. At the same time, Jones’ polyrhythmic drumming is compelling.. The music has flourishes and reprieves. Coltrane joins in the “four syllable”notation, first on tenor and then to everyone’s surprise, on voice. “Resolution” seems to adopt bop swing dynamics as the quartet picks up steam. Tyner’s extended solo is dynamic with bluesy flair and chordal nuances. Coltrane wails and breaks through melody constraints.

On “Pursuance”, Jones shines on a rare opening drum solo. His technique and driving force anchor the session. Coltrane is incendiary and thoughtful. Both Tyner and Garrison also solo. This great quartet’s chemistry is palpable. The finale, “Psalm” glows with exotic, intuitive brilliance. Coltrane had written a poem to encapsulate the spiritual journey that led him to record A Love Supreme. Like the original, they are printed on the “gatefold”. “Psalm” represented John Coltrane elucidating that poem through his tenor play. The exquisite, near-dissonant saxophone runs are hypnotic and moving. Jones’ formidable, drumming underscores the propulsive, chaotic vibe, but never upstages Coltrane. There are two mono reference cuts (“Pursuance”, “Psalm”) that give a traditional single channel sound landscape.

 

CD 2 includes all of the “surviving” (as described in the booklet notes) session material. Of particular interest are six takes of “Acknowledgement”, that feature Archie Sheep on tenor saxophone and Art Davis on double bass. As a sextet, the intricate nature of this suite is explored. The third disc is a live performance from the Festival Mondial Du Jazz Antibes. This was originally included in the 2002 Verve/Impulse reissue, and is the only live set that exists. This quartet will go down as one of the greats, and this performance adds to their well-deserved legacy.

John Coltrane The Complete Masters Deluxe Edition is quite an achievement. The aspirational interpretation of spirituality was captured in studio by the meticulous understated engineering of Rudy Van Gelder. Digital re-mastering has not overcompensated for the organic tonality of the instrumentation. Coltrane’s saxophone is expansive, with deep lower-register reverberation and piercing high-end sound that is never distorted. The stereo mix is exceptional, allowing Jones’ energetic drumming to remain firmly rooted at the bottom. The ample information booklet and fold-out gatefold are top-notch. Fifty years after its inception, A Love Supreme is awe-inspiring jazz!

TrackList:

CD 1: Part I- Acknowledgement; Part Two-Resolution; Part III-Pursuance; Part IV-Psalm; Part III-Pursuance (mono); Part IV- Psalm (mono)

Disc 2: (Quartet Sessions) Acknowledgement vocal overdub 2; Acknowledgement vocal overdub 3; Resolution take 4/alternate; Resolution take 6/breakdown; Psalm un-dubbed version; (with Archie Sheep, Art Davis): Part I- Acknowledgement take 1/alternate; Part I- Acknowledgement take 2/alternate; Part I-Acknowledgement take 3/ breakdown with studio dialogue; Part I-Acknowledgement take 4/alternate; Part I- Acknowledgement take 5/false start; Part I-Acknowledgement take 6/alternate

Disc 3: (Live At Festival Mondial Du Jazz Antibes 1965: Part I-Acknowledgement (Live); Part II- Resolution (Live); Part III-Pursuance (Live); Part IV-Psalm (Live)

—Robbie Gerson

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