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John Coltrane: A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters

Mark Corroto By

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For many a jazz fan John Coltrane's A Love Supreme is their personal desert island pick, the one recording they would not hesitate to live their days out listening to. Recorded on December 9, 1964, the session has endured as a document of the saxophonist's faith, as it was the proclamation of his rebirth from the jazz life of alcohol and substance abuse.

The 33-minutes that are A Love Supreme come as close to a musical paragon as there ever has been in jazz. Attempts by musicians such as Branford Marsalis, Frank Catalano, and the Turtle Island String Quartet to reproduce the suite have met with mixed results. For many listeners cover versions suffer the same criticisms as a remake of an Alfred Hitchcock film.

What then if we could hear Coltrane play the music live? Consider just how many times, it must be nearly a hundred, that he was recorded playing "My Favorite Things" live. Those performances didn't detract from the original 1960 studio date, because the Rodgers and Hammerstein piece was merely a platform for improvisation. A Love Supreme appears to be complete itself, with no need for interpretation. Coltrane seemed to believe this, because he performed the suite only on a few occasions. Then again, Coltrane died just 31 months after the session, at age 40. His musical progression seemed to explode post-Love Supreme with his study of new forms, expressions, and freedom. His classic quartet of McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones splintered from his explorations and associations with the so-called New Thing players, Pharoah Sanders, Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, and Rashied Ali.

This new collection includes the original 33 minutes, plus the only live recording of the suite, made on July 26, 1965, in Antibes, which was released previously in 2002 in A Love Supreme: Deluxe Edition (Impulse!). That live date is remarkable for Jimmy Garrison's bass solo, which is arguably superior to his take on the studio session. Also included are the original mono masters of "Part III -Pursuance" and "Part IV -Psalm," pieces and parts, false starts and alternate takes and overdubs of the quartet's recording session. The new discovery from this release is the December 10, 1964, sextet session with the inclusion of saxophonist Archie Shepp and bassist Art Davis. As with his invitations to Eric Dolphy and Pharoah Sanders to perform with the quartet, Shepp and Davis bring their own influences to the music. Listening back to these four takes and two false starts of "Part I -Acknowledgment," you can grasp how Coltrane was unremittingly open to the expansion of his writing. Shepp's rawness and the two-edged bass approach hint at the possibilities of Coltrane playing this music live in concert. He ultimately decided to master just the quartet's version, we can theorize, because it is the closest thing to perfection he had ever produced.

Track Listing: (CD1): Part I - Acknowledgment; Part II - Resolution; Part III - Pursuance; Part IV - Psalm; Part III - Pursuance (mono); Part IV - Psalm 9mono); (CD2): Part I - Acknowledgment (vocal overdub 2); Part I - Acknowledgment (vocal overdub 3); Part II - Resolution (take 4/alternate); Part II - Resolution (take 6/breakdown); Part IV - Psalm (undubbed version); Part I - Acknowledgment (take 1/alternate); Part I - Acknowledgment (take 2/alternate); Part I - Acknowledgment (take 3/breakdown with studio dialogue); Part I - Acknowledgment (take 4/alternate); Part I - Acknowledgment (take 5/false start); Part I - Acknowledgment (take 6/alternate); (CD3): Introduction by M.C. André Francis; Part I - Acknowledgment (live); Part II - Resolution (live); Part III - Pursuance (live); Part IV (live).

Personnel: John Coltrane: tenor saxophone, alto saxophone; McCoy Tyner: piano; Jimmy Garrison: bass; Elvin Jones: drums; Archie Shepp: tenor saxophone (CD2); Art Davis: bass (CD2).

Title: A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Impulse!

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