Universal Music Group releases a stunning previously unreleased live recording of John Coltrane performing A Love Supreme.
John Coltrane – A Love Supreme: Live In Seattle – Impulse/UMG B0034291-01 (2021) 180-gram stereo double vinyl, 75:28 *****:
(John Coltrane – tenor saxophone, percussion, McCoy Tyner – piano; Jimmy Garrison – double bass; Elvin Jones – drums; Pharaoh Sanders – tenor saxophone;, percussion Donald Garrett – double bass; Carlos Ward – alto saxophone)
If there was a Mt. Rushmore for jazz, saxophonist John Coltrane would almost certainly be there. He began his legendary career in the edgy genres of bebop and hard bop. As a band member, he garnered critical attention for his work in Thelonious Monk’s Quartet and the first Miles Davis Quintet. But Coltrane would make a greater impact as a band leader. He recorded for Atlantic (Giant Steps, My Favorite Things) and then began an iconic association with Impulse Records (A Love Supreme, Ascension, Live At The Village Vanguard). There, he solidified his classic quartet with McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (double bass) and Elvin Jones (drums). Additionally Coltrane helped to develop and popularize both modal and free jazz. In 1965, A Love Supreme (a four-part suite) was released and became a consequential part of jazz lore. The album was an intermingling of a complex musical tapestry with deep spirituality. It connected with jazz and other music audiences, establishing a unique legacy. Tragically, John Coltrane passed away three years later.
Universal Music Group has released a 180-gram double vinyl live performance of this masterpiece. A Love Supreme: Live In Seattle was recorded by local musician Joe Brazil at a small club (The Penthouse). He used the “house setup” which consisted of two ceiling mics and an Ampex reel-to-reel recorder. Coltrane expanded his quartet to a septet with the addition of Pharaoh Sanders (tenor saxophone), Donald Garrett (another double bass) and Carlos Ward (alto saxophone). At nearly double the studio album playing time, the participation of the full septet (with little or no rehearsal) is integral in translating the musical vision and artistic expression. Side A opens with a twenty-two minute “Acknowledgement” (Part I). The looser arrangement resonates with a bowed and plucked double bass. Elvin Jones brings cohesive energy, while Tyner’s atmospheric chords are silky. There is an emotional urgency in the sharp intonation of the tenor. It is raw and explosive, and gently recedes to the double bass and drum. Part II (“Resolution”) starts with a double bass interlude, then kicks off with swing finesse. Coltrane balances both mellow and harsher tonality. When Sanders takes over, it is unbridled piercing free jazz accents, echoing the passion of the composition. “Interlude II” is a drumming master class from Jones, featuring the entire drum kit.
Coltrane turns up the shrillness on “Pursuance” (Pt. III). But it is pianist Tuner who is simply brilliant. His percussive left hand, crashing chords and freewheeling right hand notation capture hard bop essence with lyrical aesthetics. His solo is nine minutes long and never loses momentum or harmonic integrity. This would mark the impending conclusion to Tyner’s collaboration with Coltrane. Preceded by two more interludes, the finale (“Psalm: Part IV”) is deeply moving. The listener can feel the slow-burning, aspirational intensity in the fierce solo. With “live” flair, Jones and Tyler frame Coltrane’s muscular grace with inspired accompaniment.
John Coltrane – A Love Supreme: Live In Seattle is a welcome expansion of this jazz catalog. The overall sound is surprisingly even with only a few exceptions (kudos to Joe Brazil and reel-to-reel source technology). Restoration and mastering by Kevin Reeves (East Iris Studios) is excellent. There is an incisive 10-page booklet with liner notes and anecdotal material. This is a jazz milestone and historical document.
Side A: A Love Supreme, Pt. I (Acknowledgement)
Side B: Interlude 1; A Love Supreme, Pt. II (Resolution); Interlude 2
Side C: A Love Supreme, Pt. III (Pursuance)
Side D: Interlude 3; Interlude 4; A Love Supreme Pt. IV (Psalm)