John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme is an all-out jazz masterpiece. It defines the freedom of expression in jazz music of the 1960s, as well as being Coltrane’s definitive work. A record built on an artist’s love for his Maker; a love letter to God in the form of four pieces of music flowing from arguably one of the great jazz quartets.
Up to this point there was only one recording of The John Coltrane Quartet performing A Love Supreme in its entirety, which was a July 1965 performance in France. That recording was included in a deluxe 2002 edition of A Love Supreme.
But now we have A Love Supreme : Live In Seattle. It was recorded in October of 1965 in Seattle at a club called The Penthouse. The show was recorded by saxophonist Joe Brazil, and the tapes were discovered in 2008 after Brazil’s death. Impulse Records has released the show, an epic 75 minute set with Coltrane, bassist Jimmy Garrison, pianist McCoy Tyner, and drummer Elvin Jones delivering a blistering set at the absolute height of their powers.
The album consists of all four parts of Coltrane’s masterful album, “Pt. 1 -Acknowledgement”, “Pt. 2-Resolution”, “Pt. 3-Pursuance”, and “Pt. 4-Psalm”. In-between are “Interludes 1-4”. This album is like peeking into the past at greatness. A band locked in and delivering the goods as if their lives depended on it. There’s a fire in the playing, and A Love Supreme sounds as if it’s coming alive on that club stage. While the recording is anything but high fidelity, this recording captures the electricity in Jones’ bombastic drums, the fluttering piano lines of Tyner, the backbone bass lines of Garrison, and of course Coltrane’s spiritual awakening through his tenor sax.
There have been many great jazz quartets and quintets throughout hard-bop and post-bop’s 50s and 60s era, but I’m convinced none were greater than Coltrane’s early mid-60s quartet. Coltrane, Tyner, Garrison, and Jones delivered a kind of magic that is rare, and they believed in what their leader was trying to accomplish. And until the quartet’s eventual downfal with Coltrane’s step into the avante garde with Ascension, this quartet were as tight as they come.
I cannot recommend A Love Supreme: Live In Seattle enough. It’s a striking step into the past to hear one of the greatest jazz records of all time in all its live glory.
9.5 out of 10