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Composed almost entirely of violently shifting textures and a commitment to dissonance that all but blasphemes melody and musical forms, this document of John Coltrane's last recorded concert from April '67 is decidedly horrific, threatening, and appropriately staggering. Having forsaken his famous "sheets of sound" for a new, overly propulsive medium in the mid-sixties, Coltrane's last phase was nearly anti-jazz or, if one wants, almost anti-music. Yet on this recording it is Pharoah Sanders who truly has his way with defiling Coltrane's more melodic past. His runs are beset with scratching, brittle, upper register notes occasionally mimicked by Coltrane or augmented by his wife, Alice, on piano. As for the venue itself, the Olatunji Center was a converted gymnasium in Harlem and sounds like it; this is the loudest, most tightly packed Coltrane on record, the sound entirely boxed in and over-amped. At one point, a car horn is audible from the street below and becomes, like the breaking of glass in the Velvet Underground's "European Son," a prelude to cacophony by way of found sound; the engineer flips off the mic by the windowGod forbid any traffic noises joined the dinand everything that follows comes out of one channel. Twenty-five minutes into the second and final song, "My Favorite Things," one can pick out a snatch of melody, but by then it's hopeless. There isn't going to be the sustained reward of anything familiar, affirming, nothing, just gaping maw. An Endgame for the jazz set.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.