All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Book Reviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

646

A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album

By

Sign in to view read count
A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album
Ashley Kahn (foreword by Elvin Jones)
ISBN: 978-0142003527
Viking/Penguin
2002

The accepted authority on Trane and the authoritative analysis is Professor Lewis Porter's John Coltrane: His Life and Music, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1998. His is a splendid and immaculate celebration but one leaning toward strict musical analysis and written within an academic tradition. Mr Kahn brings a different perspective in part because his focus is obviously on one work (A Love Supreme) but also because his purpose is somewhat different.

For many the album A Love Supreme is Coltrane at the pinnacle. On every level it is superlative Coltrane. It is therefore, not only of vital interest, but also a logical anchor from which to explore the music, the man and this particular work. That is Kahn's task.

It is perhaps odd that in spite of jazz and matters spiritual having ever been hand in hand, Coltrane it seems was the first to address the two directly, face to face. Countless jazz musicians cite the church, gospel preachers, hymn based chords, melodies, rhythms, call and response patterns—but almost always as influences.

Spiritual elements are ever present in jazz. Religious ideas were prominent from the outset. Later, musicians of the bop, post bebop and hard bop eras reverted to or took Muslim names. The lyrics of jazz abound in religious influence.

Yet Coltrane's Love Supreme involves something different. Love Supreme and Coltrane make jazz music a central tool of spirituality. Jazz fused, not just influenced by or a borrower of spiritual notions, but melded and made one with spirituality in a totally and deliberately explicit fashion.

Kahn documents and analyses this phenomena and, importantly, what others made and continue to make of it. As he did in The Making of Kind of Blue , Kahn achieves this in an approachable, down to earth as well as informative manner. The book is a joy from numerous angles.

Meticulously researched and replete with numerous interviews, quotes, reactions and comments from those closest to the action—the cast sprawls across the jazz landscape well beyond immediate musicians and family -Kahn's work provides great insight into the inspiration and evolution of Coltrane's journey.

He tackles the place of the sideman and the particulars of promoters and critics as well as the working practices of professionals such as Rudy Van Gelder and Bob Thiele. The story, for the topic demands more than simply describing how a famous record was made, is set in a wider context which locates the music without suffocating it in social or historical commentary.

The book itself, at least the hardback, is an excellent object in its own right. The right size and shape to make itself noticed, it is filled with photographs not regularly seen, spiced with quotes, scribbles, notes and produced on quality paper that make it a joy to read and refer to. As with Kahn's Making of Kind of Blue, enjoying the book is a "read listen read listen" project.

Kahn makes especially effective use of contrasting "out takes"—pages here and there detailing related but not central subjects such as the fortunes of some labels, the role of commission distribution selling, the character of certain venues, the atmosphere of specific performances and numerous like topics.

The effect is to bring immediacy to the more analytical material and remind us that for all the deeper issues the book is about great music, magic performances and an exhilaration for everybody involved.

You could be forgiven for thinking that armed with Porter's book and of course the requisite CDs you had Coltrane pretty well covered. Not so. Kahn's is a major addition.

It would never do justice to Coltrane or his work to be any less enthused and involved in writing up "A Love Supreme" than this unique human being evidently was in creating it. That is a formidable challenge. It is one Ashley Kahn has more than met.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read What's Big and Purple and Lives in the Ocean?: The Moby Grape Story Book Reviews
What's Big and Purple and Lives in the Ocean?: The...
by Doug Collette
Published: September 9, 2018
Read Jorma Kaukonen: Been So Long - My Life & Music Book Reviews
Jorma Kaukonen: Been So Long - My Life & Music
by Doug Collette
Published: August 25, 2018
Read Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon Book Reviews
Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon
by R.J. DeLuke
Published: August 21, 2018
Read Blues From the Bayou: The Rhythms of Baton Rouge by Julian C. Piper Book Reviews
Blues From the Bayou: The Rhythms of Baton Rouge by Julian...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 20, 2018
Read Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans, 3rd Edition Book Reviews
Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans, 3rd Edition
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 18, 2018
Read The Other Night at Quinn's Book Reviews
The Other Night at Quinn's
by David A. Orthmann
Published: August 17, 2018
Read "All That's Jazz" Book Reviews All That's Jazz
by Phil Barnes
Published: December 6, 2017
Read "Uncharted: Creativity and the Expert Drummer" Book Reviews Uncharted: Creativity and the Expert Drummer
by David A. Orthmann
Published: June 3, 2018