12/1/06 - john coltrane

In today's excerpt - John Coltrane, the brooding, obsessive and intensely spiritual jazz saxophonist, starts down the path that leads to his masterwork 'A Love Supreme'. This 1964 recording, still very difficult to approach for a first-time listener, yet considered by some as 'one of the most beautiful and sublime recordings of the twentieth century', has deeply influenced artists from John McLaughlin to Moby to Bono to Carlos Santana. In the years leading up to the album, during his last days as a sideman for Miles Davis, Coltrane's music begins to change—most memorably during a set in Paris in 1960:

"Coltrane was mid-solo on the first number, 'All of You,' when the whistling and catcalls began. ... A breathless flurry [of notes] cascaded forth. Coltrane built up steam, leaping between registers, finding sounds that tested ears attuned to more mellow tones. ... [French club impresario Frank Tenet said] "So, part of the audience thinks that Coltrane doesn't play well, that he was playing the wrong notes involuntarily. [They thought] too much drugs or alcohol or something like this. So they started to whistle."

"For the first time, most Parisians were witnessing the raw, boundless intensity that would guide the rest of Coltrane's career; what had been a tentative, experimental breeze when he first upped with Miles was becoming a full-force gale. ...

"Following Mile's habitual set-closer, 'The Theme,'  Tenet rushed backstage:

" 'So after the show, I said to John, 'You're too new for the people, they don't hear much of what they liked in the past. You go too far.' And he always had a little smile on his face. He said, 'I don't go far enough.' "


Ashley Kahn


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


Penguin Books


Copyright Ashley Kahn 2002


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