VARIOUS ARTISTS / “Equinox Mixtape”
Source: Breath of Life – (BoL Mixtape – January 25, 2010)
Cosmic balance. Day and night are one and the same in length. Equipose happens but twice a year, twice a lifetime: the moment of birth, the moment of death, the instant between being and nothingness.
We give our all to reach a moment of emptiness when we can receive all. Even with love. Especially with love. We are filled at precisely the moment we give our all.
I think, perhaps, just maybe, that’s why Trane’s great composition has those two movements: an intro that hurdles forward and a body that lays back in the cut. A song that can swing intensely or bliss you out in meditative trance.
No other post-fifties musician has so spiritually affected the world. All you have to do is say “a love supreme” and people everywhere will recognize the phrase even if they do not ever remember hearing the music. Trane had that kind of effect. This composition, “Equinox,” contains immediately recognizable melody and bass lines.
On the one hand, the song is so simple, almost anyone can hum it. On the other hand, the song structure rewards extensive exploration. Slow or fast, quiet or fortissimo, the music just feels right, rightly put together, right as a springboard of head way out into the gone-a-sphere.
Here are thirteen versions. It’s strange, in a way, because the versions are all over the map, including two by master percussionists Carlos “Potato” Valdes and Tito Puente. How is it that a musician associated with the avant garde could write compositions that Latin guys obviously love to play. Listen to them—they are having so much fun. Listen to the audience responding.
Or listen to Jessica Williams doing an introspective piano solo that looks inward in a very adventurous way, darting here and there, altering the harmony, or the OAM Trio doing a near total deconstruction that bears very little resemblence to the original (and it may in fact be an original that employs some of the elements of "Equinox"). Then there is Hubert Laws blowing his flute through an electronic device and atop a bed of well-arranged strings, or organist Rhoda Scott featuring flautist Joe Thomas. Come to think of it flutes are all over the place even though flutes are not usually associated with Coltrane’s music (with the major exception of Eric Dolphy). In general we think of saxophone, drums and piano when we think of Coltrane’s music, not this royal festival of flutes. Notice on the Valdes track, the flute technique is straight out of the Fula, West African style.
Compare and contrast the ringing, melodic vibes improvisation of Bobby Hutcherson with the distinctive big band arrangement of Gerald Wilson. And, speaking of comparing and contrasting, how about the master John Coltrane and the chief discipline Pharoah Sanders—which one do you prefer?
Finally, I need to mention vocalists Melissa Walker and Jose James, both of whom bring original lyrics to a composition written as an instrumental. Indeed, I’ve got two different versions by James, one studio, one live—which do you prefer?
At a certain level, on the plane of deep beauty, there is no need to choose one over the other. We have the joy, the good fortune to be able to hear all of these versions and more, to explore the different aspects of this beautiful, multi-faceted diamond of a jazz composition.
The more I listen to John Coltrane’s music, the more I want to listen to Coltrane music and the more I want to strive to be as deeply moving as Trane’s music is. Coltrane’s music encourages the listener to reach for and attempt to attain the very best.
Guess what; we are no where near exhausting our appreciation of Coltrane. There is much more to come, but for now, let us just give thanks for the beauty before us.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
Equinox Mixtape Playlist
01 Coltrane’s Sound – John Coltrane
02 BBC Radio 1 broadcast – Jose James
03 Wise One – Bobby Hutcherson
04 New York, New Sound – The Gerald Wilson Orchestra
05 El Hombre – Carlos "Potato" Valdes
06 Equinox – Jessica Williams
07 Wild Flower – Hubert Laws
08 “Portrait Of Equinox” – Moment Of Truth – Melissa Walker
09 Flow – OAM Trio
10 Jazz In Paris: Live at the Olympia – Rhoda Scott
11 The Best Of The Concord Years – Tito Puente
12 Oh Lord, Let Me Do No Wrong – Pharoah Sanders
13 Live at Paradiso broadcast – Jose James
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