Record #295: John Coltrane – A Love Supreme (1965)

There are two jazz albums that you’ll find even in the collections of non-jazz enthusiasts: Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.

​And it’s worth noting that Coltrane played on both…

In the same way, it’s worth remembering that Miles played in Charlie Parker’s band.

Miles himself was a young, ferociously talented trumpeter playing bebop with the Bird before starting his own band and taking jazz to new frontiers—namely, slowing everything down and giving birth to cool jazz.

And in the pinnacle of cool jazz, Coltrane was there filling the same role. His solos on Kind of Blue remain some of the most iconic saxophone lines in music history. And like Miles before him (and most of the Kind of Blue band, honestly), he quickly grew too large to remain under his bandleader’s shadow and made a name for himself.

Taking the same modal harmonies of cool jazz, Coltrane added a sort of manic energy to it. Where cool jazz’s drummers largely rode the beat, rising from the background only occasionally, Coltrane lit a fire under his rhythm section, pioneering what would be called hard bop, before going full tilt into free jazz.

Like Kind of Blue for Miles, A Love Supreme is Coltrane’s capital G Great record. It is for hard bop what Kind of Blue is for cool jazz. It is a monolith of immaculately played hard bop that reaches far beyond jazz’s typical sphere of influence.

There are hints of frenetic free jazz he would go on to write, but A Love Supreme is intricately composed, returning to a small handful of motifs throughout the record (the sung “Love supreme” melody that opens the record also closes it, appearing a few times in the middle section).

​In the liner notes, Coltrane writes a beautiful psalm dedicating the record to God, and the devotion is easy to hear. Each breath of the saxophone, each hammered piano chord, each drum fill, each sliding bass line is a devout act, an act of worship somewhere between bliss and toil. 

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