Jazz & Blues Edge: John Coltrane – A Love Supreme 1965

Credit: BootLoverPhotography

by Ms. Ann


Part I – Acknowledgement  7:39

Part II – Resolution   7:15

Part III – Pursuance

Part IV – Psalm  17:40



John Coltrane — bandleader, liner notes, vocals, soprano and tenor saxophone

McCoy Tyner – piano

Jimmy Garrison — double bass

Elvin Jones – drums

Recorded 9 and 10 December 1964 at Van Gelder Studios in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, in 1964.

Let the bad feelings go.  All of them.  Submit to the freedom of the spiritual journey that is this album.

The John Coltrane classic quartet had been playing together for bit of time, they were tight, they could feel intuitively where a fellow player was going, their energies meshed congruently. Given the framework of a piece, it was improvised out by four folk as one likeminded soul would play.  The original recording is of the tracks played by this quartet.  Following the first day of recording, the quartet would do another track of Acknowledgement (which from all the notes I have read, this day two track was the one chosen for the album).  Other musicians would join in on day two but in the final cut, nothing simply compared to the spirit of the original quartet.  A release of all track cuts, 6 players and live performances is available, this review is of the original album.

In overview, it must be said that this is John Coltrane’s thanks to God.  He was a drug addict.  He was fired by Miles Davis because of this.  He traveled that windy precarious road of a sober drug addict. That road has pot holes and dips and smoother patches. It was a good journey to this place in time.

In the original liner notes to the 1965 Impulse! Record, he writes: “During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music. […] This album is a humble offering to Him. An attempt to say “Thank You God” through our work, even as we do in our hearts and with our tongues.”

John Coltrane wrote a Poem, “A Love Supreme”, and set it to a suite of music.  This is the first time we have a jazz album as a dedicated work using the language of jazz to explore deeper metaphysical concerns.  In four acts we are taken through a musical journey of extreme emotional intensity and are delivered in the final bars to a blissful contentment.

Part I – Acknowledgement  7:39

Personally, I always see a butterfly awakening and stepping out into a brave new world upon hearing the opening sounds.  Your experience will filter your visions. This is taken to a drum shimmer and the melodic theme is introduced to us in a bass ostinato.  Coltrane gives his improvisation (increasing the rhythm, the range of his saxophone) and moves to the melodic theme, given in many keys, as if to represent that High Spiritual Love is all around, everywhere to be discovered and seen, to enjoy how it is woven in the fabric of our being, and the melodic theme unfolds into the chanting of the words “A Love Supreme”.

Part II – Resolution   7:15

Shifting into an upbeat tempo with a light eight bar melody, the second act is a real cooker.  As I tap my toe along, I love the progression of chordal blocks and the unfolding into a bluesy swing.

Part III – Pursuance

Opening with a drum solo that sets an aggressive, hyped up mood, Coltrane joins in keeping this frantic, racing along attitude and the piano trots along with that mood.  It is as if we are a snowball racing down the glacier mountain, gathering density and fury before we crash into the ocean.  I love the return of a drum solo which is passed off to the bass.  Garrison thoroughly explores the soundscape, including the chords and connecting motifs. Truly heartfelt music is shared here.

 Part IV – Psalm 

The conclusion of the four acts washes over my soul with timpani and cymbal swirling in the background, Coltrane, vocalizes his poem through his saxophone.  You can read along

The music was recorded without any notes or sheet music.  There are a couple times, Coltrane seems to go off path from his poem exactly, but it wasn’t in front of him, it was in his mind, and memory while passionately expressing yourself musically can wander momentarily.

In conclusion, the album is one I pour into my brandy snifter, inhale, smile, breathe deeply, and let the spirituality flow over me.  Enjoy.