When I got home from work I saw a couple square packages waiting on the front porch. Oh boy! My recent Discogs purchases arrived! As you may or may not recall, I’ve been on a real jazz kick lately. I’ve been perusing back catalogs of some of my favorite guys; Davis, Coltrane, Monk, Winklehammer. So last week I located a first pressing of Thelonious Monk’s Monk’s Dream, one of my favorite Monk records. It was also the first jazz album I ever bought, back in 1995 and on CD. I also found a first pressing of John Coltrane’s Ascension. I think I got a pretty good deal on both, as the vinyl is near mint. Bonus points, kiddos.
As I said, I’ve heard Monk’s Dream many, many times. “Monk’s Dream”, “Body And Soul”, “Blues Five Spot”, and his incredible rendition of “Just A Gigolo” are all on this album and I can listen to them anytime, anywhere. Living room? Yup. Kitchen? You bet. Driving? Of course. The toilet? Why the hell not? It’s an album that evokes a feeling of timelessness in me. I can remember being 21 years old and listening to this album in my apartment with the only light being the glow of my stereo. It’s an album that always brings me some inner peace.
Ascension is another story. I have to admit, I had not heard Ascension before just about 40 minutes ago. I’d always heard of it and had heard it was very close to Coltrane’s heart. Very much in the free jazz form. If you’re at all familiar with Ornette Coleman, then you’d have an idea of what Coltrane was trying to accomplish. Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra,…cats like that were pushing John Coltrane in a totally new musical landscape. Well, this album is the turmoil and tumultuousness of the Civil Rights movement, violence in the south, the threat of Nuclear war, and Coltrane’s inner anguish to find some sort of spiritual peace within himself and the world around him. In other words, Ascension is a loud, brash, tense, and explosive musical love letter to a world Coltrane loved but was afraid might not love him back. First two minutes I was worried I might not be able to get into this record. By the time I was flipping to side two I was already falling love with this album. I’m currently on my second time through and, though I won’t be winning over my family with this one, Coltrane has won me over yet again. As the liner notes state inside the gatefold sleeve, this is not for the casual jazz fan. In an indie rock perspective, this would be like starting your Pavement journey out with Wowee Zowee. Or instead of beginning a relationship with Lou Reed by spinning Transformer you decide to hit Metal Machine Music…or God forbid, Berlin. No, if you’re new to John Coltrane I would suggest Coltrane’s Sound, or My Favorite Things. Those are records that definitely show Coltrane spreading his musical wings while still being firmly grounded in be bop and hard bop. Once you’ve immersed yourself in those two albums, hit up A Love Supreme. Hungry for more? Well my friend, sit down at the table and prepare for the aural and spiritual feast known as Ascension.
Well, that’s all that is happening in the woods surrounded by a cornfield. Now it’s time to figure out what Coltrane album will be next to snag. Or maybe I’ll check out that Winklehammer guy.