John Coltrane, A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters, Impulse!

From 2015. A reissue to wallow in, and a completist’s dream to have every take and overdub from A Love Supreme, one of the greatest ever jazz recordings, available for the first time. Recorded on 9 December 1964, the classic quartet – Coltrane with …

Published: 28 Nov 2019. Updated: 12 months.

From 2015. A reissue to wallow in, and a completist’s dream to have every take and overdub from A Love Supreme, one of the greatest ever jazz recordings, available for the first time.

Recorded on 9 December 1964, the classic quartet – Coltrane with pianist McCoy Tyner, double bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones – are the players we all know from the original album but here crucially in the extra bits sax firebrand Archie Shepp and a second bassist, Art Davis, who came in the next day and recorded a different version to the opening part of the suite, are included.

More rough hewn, Shepp’s rasping anarchic style is barely constrained and if anything his contributions are the more obviously revolutionary but without the cool collected spirituality Coltrane’s style so magisterially projects on the classic album.

You’re getting nine tracks that haven’t been out before, mostly disc 2 and some mono reference masters on disc 1. The third disc (the super deluxe edition has this extra disc) feature the live performance at Antibes that was reissued 13 years ago.

Impulse have pulled out all the stops in terms of production and the CDs are issued in a longer CD box than usual with lots of period pictures and extensive notes by Ashley Kahn.

Fascinating minutiae of course and aimed at serious Coltrane fans who want to know every last detail there’s plenty of that here. Ironically, however, you might just return to the original album featured on the first disc and think this is all perfect in itself, sufficient unto itself.

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Institutionalised jazz thinking

From 2017. “These walls are funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, gets so you depend on them. That’s institutionalised” – Red, The Shawshank Redemption It never occurred to anyone when jazz was in its infancy that …

Published: 28 Nov 2019. Updated: 57 days.

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From 2017.

“These walls are funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, gets so you depend on them. That’s institutionalised” – Red, The Shawshank Redemption

It never occurred to anyone when jazz was in its infancy that ‘it’ could become like an institution or the institution could even become the public face of jazz itself.

Instead 'it' was from what we read in the history books, outsider, party, unknown, rebellious, protest, music. It was an act of creativity beyond prescription. If there was a dream it was acceptance by society on its own terms.

Jazz didn’t enter the concert hall until much later, academia even later. Nowadays jazz as a global movement is often institutionalised, the walls are big company and academic approved, national state sponsored.

The arrivals and departure lounge for many is to go to music college, put on a tux in a youth orchestra, maybe get a job in a professional big band run by the state radio company or philanthropic non-profit. Maybe teach jazz. The money is better after all.

But the institutionalising that sometimes happens is dangerous in a highly distracting way for the real artist, and so many come out the other end resembling the approach of fellow professionals and peers or just stop playing music entirely browned off by the competitiveness of music college. The individual beats a retreat and their essential individuality as artists is squeezed like a tube of toothpaste down to the last blob where nothing much remains. A new tube may not come along for a while.

Ultimately ideas can go stale as the institution despite its best intentions demands conformity, a preservation however softly softly of its core values through the artistry it is sponsoring, the perpetuation of its own legend via its own marketing, and worst of all although rare a doctrinaire imposition of core musical values through rigid teaching, in essence overly prescribed notions of what improvisation using jazz idioms happen to be. Stephen Graham

Shhh, Red is speaking again: “These walls are funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, gets so you depend on them. That’s institutionalised.”