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6 Responses to “JOHN COLTRANE / “Dear Lord””

Chris Defendorf Says:
August 6th, 2006 at 1:14 am

“The Gentle Side of John Coltrane” is an EXCELLENT collection. Thank you! In my opinion, this album sounds good, perhaps best, on one of those old all-in-one record players with speakers!


ekere Says:
August 9th, 2006 at 4:31 am

I am reading your post, Cyber-Baba, with tears in my eyes. Coltrane is a Holy Book. Thanks for your whispered sermon.

one love,

ekere Says:
August 9th, 2006 at 4:39 am

“He was consistently able to express the most intense, serious and meaningful ideas and themes without necessarily being aggressive or ‘argumentative’ about it. It’s a highly unusual quality for a musical artist to have—particularly a male artist.”

Preach, Mtume!!!!! This is so true.

What I love is that the two of you are able to put language to this beauty.

one love,

youngblood Says:
August 9th, 2006 at 12:48 pm

With an artist like Trane context is everything. If one were to experience art solely through the keyboard of some writers it would seems as though music were the invention of the human brain. Fortunately a significant amount of music lovers do not share that left-sided perspective. The fact is that in some indigenous cultures there are two terms for musicians: one term signifies a person who judiciously commands the power inherent in music and is thus sensitive to the needs of people. The other term is used to identify those who were “formally educated” to be musicians. One’s personal definition or utilization of music is nobody else’s business. But try to imagine if there were no written words to describe music, no categories or genres. What if all you had to go on was how you felt when that certain something inside you quickened at the first sensation of vibrations of sound.

Just before being found floating in New York’s East River the holy spirit or third aspect of tenor saxophone trinity (Trane being the father and Pharaoh is the son), Albert Ayler, was being pressured by Impulse to make a “hit” record. While Albert Ayler’s cause of death remains a mystery what is well documented is the disappointment and shear and utter frustration felt by the man riding the crest that demarcated the link between the supersonic otherworldliness of Trane and the gutbucket down-home blues sound of Sonny ‘Nucleus’ Rollins. An attempt at making sense of Impulse’s reasoning probably would be to consider placing Bernard Purdie’s metronomic backbeat behind Albert’s sound. On paper this executive decision sounds like crossover gold, right? If we could track the footprints dancing through the canyon of African experience in America, the full sonic spectrum of Black music enhances every nuance proceeding from volatile ethers of Albert’s saxophone bell. Quite frankly you have to love a person who brings to the bandstand the sonic equivalent of the entire Black experience from the fleeting fire and brimstone urgency of energy found mostly in sanctified churches to the rhythmically rooted and arrogant hip ness of an R&B stroll; a man who cares enough for listeners to go through the painstaking hours and hours required to develop an embouchure capable of producing a personal trademark sound filled with nuances that becomes both immediately identifiable and synonymous with the genre; a sound so pure and bright that it’s very utterance makes you immediately choose whether to embrace it or run away to safer, less urgent sounds. Albert Ayler is an enigma that straddles two worlds while, at the same time, cloaking himself in a shear veil of musical after sight known as overtones and harmonics. What you are hearing is subtleness of clusters of harmonics tightly woven together to form a tight and textured background, middle ground and foreground. This is all filtered through a cobalt blue feeling of black psycadelic illumination. Abstract images that are so basic and fundamental in the way it hits the gut it is almost scary. Not to go unnoticed are the shadow sounds; those barely audible pastel tones that are the foundation upon which the sound stands. As Albert unearths ancient artifacts and displays them in all their ritualistic context and splendor what really leaps out of the grooves of black vinyl and iridescent laser light is a stratified knowledge and a mature relationship with a greater power. Where Trane was boiling African herbs down to a potent serum and putting organic home remedies on a spoon for us, Albert was pulling roots straight out of the ground and bringing down spirits seen and unseen. However Impulse sought to sell snake oil and tried to represent Ayler as sideshow attraction. What is evident is that there are those who come along and change the way we hear music. There are those who have the means to provide us the links between what is known and accepted and what is possible; the Armstrongs, the Parkers, the Hendrix’s, the What’s Going On’s, the Kind of Blue’s, The Bitches Brew’s, the A Love Supreme’s for example. What if we could hear music, really feel music without any preconceived ideas. What would you imagine if on one humid night you were walking past someone’s bedroom window and heard both a man and a woman screaming. Could you tell right off the quality of the scream? Would you know for certain whether it was pain or pleasure? The same could be said of a scream comming from a pulpit or pews of a church congregation. I imagine a lot of the thought process would depend on whether or how one is predisposed one way or another.

John Coltrane Quartet and Johnny Hartman recording is one of the most brilliant examples of an entire ensemble of hall of fame musicians coming together where music is infinity more important than ego. The sax and vocal cosign each other with the type of single-minded duality reserved for Siamese twins and enlightened Gemini’s. Yet this is only the surface. Not very much is mentioned about the deft accompaniment of Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones and McCoy Tyner – three “side men” who are individually capable of stretching the aural bounds of the known universe. Together this rhythm section produces a sonic landscape so vast and panoramic that one almost takes for granted the freedom of motion available. It is the colors, textures and shading provided by the precise placement of chords and acoompaniment that set the stage for the front line. Jimmy, Elvin and McCoy lifts these standards off the page and provides a platform for Trane and Johnny Hartman to dance. There is a small but significant difference between minimalism and tastefulness. The group performs arrangements as written yet when artists of this caliber reach a level of musical and self-awareness where so much personal character comes through the performance then every single utterance is filled with purpose and intent. This is not necessarily an interpretation as much as it is submission. The choice of song(s) and knowing the intent and emotional bases is key. One ceases to listen with external ears and becomes internalized, reflective, contemplative, gone. The musicians turn themselves completely over to the music and become vehicles through which the original intent of the song is allowed to manifest unobstructed. The performance touces us in profound ways as it proceeds from a realm of selflessness. The Johnny Hartman/Coltrane Quartet recording along with Coltrane’s Ballards became, in a sense, Trane’s answer to critics who actually had the unmitigated gall to question the supersonic tenor man’s ability to play ballads. For the most part John Coltrane musical exodus from the constraints of media scrutiny was one of unparalleled growth and constant progression of ever ascending heights and delving deeper into musical expression and improvisaton. When listening to the later works of John Coltrane we notice the virtual absence of “standards”. The songs from the Gentle Side is basically preparing us for what is next. We are witnessing the progression of an artist, an art form, a man. Just check out Stellar Regions and Ogunde; two of Trane’s last recordings. This music is the state of the art of improvisation – even by todays standards.

As we can see from the selections pulled from original recording dates Trane’s original compositions were but an extention of the music that came before. The Gentle Side of John Coltrane was marketing savvy on the part of Creed Taylor’s Impulse label. Creed Taylor would later go on to start CTI which was very seminal in the distributing and marketing of Bob James, Grover Washington and others of the smooth jazz genre. How ’bout that!

tayari kwa salaam Says:
August 11th, 2006 at 10:05 am

Coltrane. ColTRANE. COLTRANE. Sacred. Spirit-filled. Peace-full. Ethereal. Coltrane be puttin me there every single time.
Give thanks.

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