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David and Art - John Coltrane Part 3

Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis

John Coltrane's 1965 masterpiece has new life thanks to a 56 year old recording.

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In 2007, 40 years after American jazz musician John Coltrane’s death, the Pulitzer Prize Board awarded him a Special Citation for a lifetime of innovative and influential work.  Yet even now, Coltrane recordings continue to emerge, captivating his fans and giving fresh insights.  One was released just last month and it’s a doozy. 

In the summer of 1964, Coltrane lived in a modest house in suburban Long Island with his second wife Alice and their children.  One day he came down the stairs from the room in which he wrote with a four-part piece of music he had just finished.  His wife said it was like seeing Moses come down from the mountain.
The result was A Love Supreme which he and his combo recorded that December.  It’s widely regarded as Coltrane’s masterpiece. Like a symphony, its movements are not to be considered separate pieces. It’s all one unified expression of the human response to divine love.  Listening to it start to finish can be a transcendent experience.
Dr. Ed Taylor teaches music theory at Baylor University and is the most accomplished and sought-after jazz drummer in town.  Sometimes as you listen to him play, you hear passages that sound remarkably like Coltrane’s drummer Elvin Jones.
Twice, Taylor and his New York-based jazz quartet have performed A Love Supreme in its entirety.  He told me that he never “approached the performance of any jazz composition with such reverence or with such attention to detail,” as he did this one.  “While each of our performances was unique," he said, "I believe that we were able to capture the spiritual aesthetic that Coltrane intended. The material is so well crafted, I felt that tapping into the sacred nature of the composition was relatively easy to do. The fact that both performances took place inside of large church sanctuaries undoubtedly added to the aesthetic.”
In October 2021 a live version of A Love Supreme, recorded in October 1965, was released to great anticipation.  The instrumentation on this version is a little different than the studio recording, and Rolling Stone said that that shows Coltrane understood the work to be perpetually in progress, always open to change and evolution, much like spirituality itself.  
Whether you listen to the studio version, or this live version that has finally come to light, you will hear a wonderful abstract fusion of spirituality and music that is undeniably John Coltrane.  Give it a try. You will hear the work of a genius.  

David Smith, host of David and Art, is an American historian with broad interests in his field. He’s been at Baylor University since 2002 teaching classes in American history, military history, and cultural history. For eight years he wrote an arts and culture column for the Waco Tribune-Herald, and his writings on history, art, and culture have appeared in other newspapers from the Wall Street Journal to the Dallas Morning News.