It was 50 years ago today — the anniversary of the A Love Supreme recording date

December 9th, 2014

coltrane

Chuck Stewart’s photo of John Coltrane at the December 9, 1964 recording session of A Love Supreme

_____

Ask just about any jazz musician, scholar or fan for a list of the greatest jazz albums ever recorded, and John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme — recorded 50 years ago today — resides on it. My own first experience with it was in 1975, on a late evening in a dark, smoke-filled, back alley cottage on North Oakland’s Alcatraz Avenue.  My listening was guided by a dear friend who understood that this was not just music — it is what happens when musical genius meets intensity, sensitivity, and spirituality. So many details of that evening remain with me 40 years later, not the least of which was how I sunk into the couch, eyes closed, the worn Impulse album jacket never leaving my grip. I was amazed and I was hooked.

Over the years, I have found that a favorite discussion among jazz fans is their recollections of their first experience with this album. When I began developing content for Jerry Jazz Musician, one of the first ideas I had was to interview people who were either 1) part of the A Love Supreme recording itself, 2) as a musician, impacted by its brilliance, or 3) had an informed opinion about it. Thus, I set out on a mission over several years’ time that ultimately resulted in a series called “The A Love Supreme Interviews,” featuring conversations with prominent figures, including musicians McCoy Tyner and Joshua Redman, biographer Ashley Kahn, critics Gary Giddins, Francis Davis, Nat Hentoff and Ben Ratliff, and poet Michael Harper.

Here are some excerpts from the interviews…

*  In my interview with McCoy Tyner (the pianist on the recording), he shared this memory about the recording session:

I remember that Rudy Van Gelder, who was a premiere jazz recording engineer at the time, cut the lights down, which made it more like a club atmosphere. I don’t think we even rehearsed that music. Usually John would play the music and then we would record it and see what could happen, because it usually developed. Once we started playing it, new ideas would form as far as interpretation of that particular song or group of songs, and A Love Supremewas kind of a suite. Many of the arrangements were head arrangements. There was only one horn so we were able to do that easily, and he just had things sketched out that he would want, nothing in detail, just more or less a few changes, and there you go! We had reached a point where we had that kind of high level communication between us.

*  Here is what saxophonist Joshua Redman told me after I asked him what effect A Love Supreme had on him:

I think the thing that always impacted me about A Love Supreme was just the intensity and the force of the music, and the soulfullness of it. I don’t mean soulfullness in the sense of a style of music, but just the sheer passion came through, maybe from the first time I heard it. I think that is the case for most people when they hear that record, whether they ever hear another lick of jazz or not. They may not have any understanding of what’s happening musically, the incredibly deep and complex musical issues that Coltrane is tackling, but I think the conviction and the intensity and the passion and the sincerity – the honesty – you feel these qualities when you hear this record, and that’s what makes it so compelling, it’s what makes it one of the greatest jazz albums of all time.

*  Nat Hentoff, the legendary jazz writer who wrote liner notes on several Coltrane albums, had this to say about where this album stands among the great recordings of jazz:

It stands among them, just as some of his others do. This was a man who was always searching, and therefore always evolving. That is why in his live performances, some of which have been recorded, he could go on for an hour and a half on one song, because he was always looking deep, trying to discover what else could be said. On A Love Supreme, …he was able to reach inside himself through his music. I never asked him about this, and it may be a wrong theory, but I think some of the parts of his recordings and his live performances that were like anguished or tortured shouts, was almost therapy, a self-cleansing in a way.

Today is a great day to revisit this all-time great recording, and for accompaniment, I invite readers to visit The A Love Supreme Interviews

 

_____

 

The only surviving filmed footage of Coltrane performing A Love Supreme

 

 

The complete audio recording of A Love Supreme

 

Share this:

One comments on “It was 50 years ago today — the anniversary of the A Love Supreme recording date”

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

Michael Cuscuna, Mosaic Records co-founder, is interviewed about his successful career as a jazz producer, discographer, and entrepreneur...Also in this issue, in celebration of Blue Note’s 80th year, we asked prominent writers and musicians the following question: “What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums; a new collection of jazz poetry; “On the Turntable,” is a new playlist of 18 recently released jazz recordings from six artists – Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano, Matt Brewer, Tom Harrell, Zela Margossian and Aaron Burnett; two new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Jazz History Quiz”; a new feature called “Pressed for All Time,”; a new photo-narrative by Charles Ingham; and…lots more.

On the Turntable

This month, a playlist of 18 recently released jazz recordings by six artists -- Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano. Matt Brewer, Tom Harrell, Zela Margossian, and Aaron Burnett

Poetry

In this month’s collection, with great jazz artists at the core of their work, 16 poets remember, revere, ponder, laugh, dream, and listen

The Joys of Jazz

In this new volume of his podcasts, Bob presents two stories, one on Clifford Brown (featuring the trumpeter Charlie Porter) and the other is part two of his program on stride piano, including a conversation with Mike Lipskin

Short Fiction

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #51 — “Crossing the Ribbon,” by Linnea Kellar

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

Pressed for All Time

In an excerpt from his book Pressed for All Time, Michael Jarrett interviews producer Creed Taylor about how he came to use tape overdubs during the 1957 Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross Sing a Song of Basie recording session

Art

“Thinking about the Truesdells” — a photo-narrative by Charles Ingham

Jazz History Quiz #128

Although he was famous for modernizing the sound of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra -- “On the Sunny Side of the Street” was his biggest hit while working for Dorsey (pictured) -- this arranger will forever be best-known for his work with the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra. Who is he?

Great Encounters

In this edition, Bob Dylan recalls what Thelonious Monk told him about music at New York’s Blue Note club in c. 1961.

Art

Jerry Jazz Musician regularly publishes a series of posts featuring excerpts of the photography and stories/captions found in Jazz in Available Light by Veryl Oakland. In this edition, Mr. Oakland's photographs and stories feature Stan Getz, Sun Ra, and Carla Bley.

Interviews

Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, discusses her late husband’s complex, fascinating life.

Cover Stories with Paul Morris

In this edition, Paul writes about jazz album covers that offer glimpses into intriguing corners of the culture of the 1950’s

Coming Soon

"The Photography Issue" will feature an interview with jazz photographer Carol Friedman (her photo of Wynton Marsalis is pictured), as well as with Michael Cuscuna on unreleased photos by Blue Note's Francis Wolff.

In the previous issue

Jeffrey Stewart, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, is interviewed about Locke (pictured), the father of the Harlem Renaissance. Also in this issue…A new collection of jazz poetry; "On the Turntable," a new playlist of 19 recommended recordings by five jazz artists; three new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Great Encounters”; several short stories; the photography of Veryl Oakland and Charles Ingham; a new Jazz History Quiz; and lots more…

Contributing writers

Site Archive