Remembering John Coltrane | A Love Supreme

Today marks 50 years since John Coltrane’s passing. When talking about Coltrane’s legacy it’s hard not to immediately get into a discussion about A Love Supreme. Just a couple of years before he died at the age of 40, the John Coltrane Quartet recorded the album A Love Supreme. For many interested musical consumers,  hearing A Love Supreme was a revelation.

Before going solo, Coltrane’s battles with heroin addiction saw him fired by legendary artists Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, but it was these struggles with repeated drug addiction that spurred the inspiration for A Love Supreme. A near overdose in 1957 galvanised him spirituality and these spiritual concerns would characterise much of Coltrane’s composing and playing from this point onwards, as can be seen from album titles such as Ascension, Om and Meditations. The fourth movement of A Love Supreme, “Psalm”, is, in fact, a musical setting for an original poem to God written by Coltrane, and printed in the album’s liner notes. Coltrane plays almost exactly one note for each syllable of the poem, and bases his phrasing on the words. Despite its challenging musical content, the album was a commercial success, encapsulating both the internal and external energy of the quartet – Coltrane, Tyner, Jones and Garrison. 50 years since it was composed at Coltrane’s home in Dix Hills on Long Island, it is still considered essential listening, inviting the listener, in John Coltrane’s words, to experience ‘Elation, Elegance, Exaltation’.

The quartet played A Love Supreme live only once—in July 1965 at a concert in Antibes, France – This 14 minute clip is the only surviving film of that performance.

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