7

John Coltrane: Meditations

Sacha O'Grady By

Sign in to view read count
One man's meditation can be a migraine to another. By the early '60's, John Coltrane found himself moving ever further away from traditional forms of musical expression, and into what could be described as uncharted territory, even for jazz. So much so that the saxophonist's influence and ability to break down barriers not only within his own relatively elite circle extended itself into the ever growing rock fraternity, to the extent that bands such as The Byrds and Santana cited him as an important figure in the development of their own ideas and direction. What Coltrane himself may have thought about that is anyone's guess, since he did not live long enough to witness the newly emerging jazz-rock scene, however I'm sure he would have been both pleased as well as puzzled at his inadvertent role as high priest of modern jazz.

Just as A Love Supreme, Meditations is concerned with religious obsessions, or a "unity in life" as Coltrane himself once said. Certainly the personnel are impressive: Pharaoh Sanders (tenor saxophone, tambourine); Jimmy Garrison (bass); McCoy Tyner (piano); Elvin Jones (drums) and Rashied Ali (drums) -basically the musical equivalent to the American Special Forces.

Anyone familiar with Coltrane's more melodic work in the 1950's will be in for a bit of a shock, because Meditations is like nothing else he had ever done. From the first note played it's obvious that the listener is on a journey, one that can be as intense as it is confronting. Take "The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost" as exhibit A, with its seemingly messy, almost atonal cacophony. One thing's certain, this ain't the Beatles we're listening to, since this is something far more cerebral and abstract.

"Compassion" is more melodious and has a beat the listener can follow. Tyner tinkers away on the keys in imaginative fashion, while Jones and Ali keep the mathematicians guessing. "Love" begins with Garrison's semi-oriental bass patterns, before Coltrane's tenor comes in, followed by the rest of the troupe, where soon it evolves into another one of those intellectual brainy compositions any fan of Garth Brookes would likely shudder at. On "Consequences" both Sanders and Coltrane really go for the jazz jugular, letting out more squeaks and squeals than a cave full of bats, only more frenetic. Tyner's playing is absolutely stunning throughout. The track segues into the closing number "Serenity," not the kind of serenity most people would recognize, but of the avant-garde variety, fraught with strange soundscapes and asymmetrical rhythms.

Meditations isn't an easy album to digest, mind you if you should ever want to get rid of any unwanted guests, you'll know which album to put on in future. Like Miles Davis, Coltrane was a restless spirit, forever exploring new frontiers; "transcending ordinary ways of musical speech" is how Nat Hentoff put it in the original 1966 liner notes. Whether you get this LP perhaps doesn't really matter, because just as the universe itself, it will always be there, whether we notice or not.

Track Listing: The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost; Compassion; Love; Consequences; Serenity.

Personnel: John Coltrane – tenor saxophone, band leader; Pharoah Sanders: tenor saxophone; McCoy Tyner: piano; Jimmy Garrison: double bass; Elvin Jones: drums; Rashied Ali: drums.

Title: Meditations | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Impulse!


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Kurrent CD/LP/Track Review Kurrent
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: October 17, 2017
Read Duets CD/LP/Track Review Duets
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 17, 2017
Read Rev CD/LP/Track Review Rev
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 17, 2017
Read The Frequency Modulators Orchestra, Vol. 1 CD/LP/Track Review The Frequency Modulators Orchestra, Vol. 1
by Jim Olin
Published: October 17, 2017
Read The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren CD/LP/Track Review The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 16, 2017
Read Any Other Way CD/LP/Track Review Any Other Way
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 16, 2017
Read "Trickster" CD/LP/Track Review Trickster
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: May 11, 2017
Read "The Deep" CD/LP/Track Review The Deep
by Dr. Judith Schlesinger
Published: July 4, 2017
Read "East West Time Line" CD/LP/Track Review East West Time Line
by Geannine Reid
Published: April 10, 2017
Read "Recent Developments" CD/LP/Track Review Recent Developments
by Karl Ackermann
Published: March 26, 2017
Read "On the Spot" CD/LP/Track Review On the Spot
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: August 30, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.