Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

14

John Coltrane: Interstellar Space

Sacha O'Grady By

Sign in to view read count
As the '60s dawned it would seem that John Coltrane was determined to permanently turn his back on being an accessible artist. Often considered as one of his most influential works, Interstellar Space is certainly not for everyone. Fans of My Favorite Things and Blue Train may struggle with its seemingly random and "multidirectional" explorations. Also, those who might be expecting this half solar system suite to be based on Gustav Holst's The Planets will be sorely disappointed. Because Coltrane's own compositions are in a complete solar system of their own, perhaps even another universe entirely. If Coltrane ever had Holst in mind, he never talked about it, not even to Rashied Ali, the young drummer Coltrane chose to recruit as a way of expanding his sound, and who would eventually go on to replace Coltrane's other drummer, the inimitable Elvin Jones, who departed due to his own increasing frustration at the saxophonist's new direction.

As Ali himself remembers, "If you listen... you can hear that something's going on and holding the whole thing together. I'm not playing regular time, but the feeling of regular time is there. I'm thinking in time."

First up is "Mars," a composition full of irregular rhythms and Coltrane's own expressionist playing. At over ten minutes, it can make for a fairly intense listen. If one could transcribe Jackson Pollock into music it might possibly resemble something such as this (maybe). "Venus" has a tender beginning before shortly wandering off into an utterly different reality altogether, as if Coltrane were attempting to explain the notions of string theory through his tenor saxophone.

The lesson in particle physics continues with our Professor demonstrating the theoretical framework of the cosmos on "Jupiter," before the listener receives yet another lecture in quantum mechanics with "Saturn." It's all pretty fascinating stuff really, provided one has the intellect to actually understand it.

Originally issued in 1974, some seven years after Coltrane's passing, Impulse! has included two bonus tracks, the seriously feverish "Leo" and "Jupiter Variations." Both the packaging and remastered sound are excellent as always, and if you're really keen, you can wind back from track one to hear several false starts.

In his final years, Coltrane divided both critics and admirers in equal measure. Mad professor, avant-garde prophet, or inspired innovator? Perhaps he was all of these and more. Just as 1959's Giant Steps marked a turning point between his past and what was soon to come, so too could Interstellar Space be regarded as the work of a restless spirit and musical maverick whose concept of cosmic contemplation was often light years ahead of many of his contemporaries.

Track Listing: Mars; Venus; Jupiter; Saturn; Leo; Jupiter variation.

Personnel: John Coltrane: tenor saxophone, bells; Rashied Ali: drums.

Title: Interstellar Space | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Impulse!

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Live at Pyatt Hall CD/LP/Track Review Live at Pyatt Hall
by Jack Bowers
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Flying Heart CD/LP/Track Review Flying Heart
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 23, 2018
Read The 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow CD/LP/Track Review The 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow
by John Sharpe
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Solano Canyon CD/LP/Track Review Solano Canyon
by Glenn Astarita
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Lucas CD/LP/Track Review Lucas
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: January 22, 2018
Read In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording CD/LP/Track Review In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 22, 2018
Read "Hybrido - From Rio To Wayne Shorter" CD/LP/Track Review Hybrido - From Rio To Wayne Shorter
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 12, 2017
Read "Follow Your Heart" CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "Lattice" CD/LP/Track Review Lattice
by John Sharpe
Published: December 14, 2017
Read "Upright Piano - Live At Bar Moskus" CD/LP/Track Review Upright Piano - Live At Bar Moskus
by Jim Worsley
Published: December 25, 2017
Read "Pathways" CD/LP/Track Review Pathways
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 30, 2017
Read "Codex" CD/LP/Track Review Codex
by Doug Collette
Published: December 3, 2017