Thursday 5 October 2023

5 Songs About: John Coltrane

Kicked off with our 5 Songs About... Stevie Wonder, we're continuing in our run of revisiting the catalogues of our heroes with (mostly) contemporary takes on their music.  This entry looks at one of the most revered names within the pantheon of jazz by heralding the work of saxophonist, bandleader and composer, John Coltrane...

1. 'Afro Blue' by Sean Khan (2021)

Sean Khan pays due reverence to John Coltrane's music through his fantastic full-length release through BBE Records, 'Supreme Love (A Journey Through Coltrane)'.  If you take into account the remixes from Kaidi Tatham and Atjazz then it all pieces together to make a fairly expansive - and brilliant - homage to the legendary artist's legacy.  Presented over the course of three sections - autobiography, homage and encyclopaedia - Coltrane's influence on Khan is explored beautifully with classics like 'Naima' and 'Equinox' tackled exquisitely.  Here we'll cite the wonderful assistance of Heidi Vogel on 'Afro Blue' as the album's scene-stealer.

2. 'Naima' by Carsten Meinert Kvartet (1969; reissued 2015)

Founded by Danish video journalist, Andreas Vingaard, Frederiksberg Records has managed to unearth some incredible projects originally striving to celebrate unsung Scandinavian jazz like the label's inaugural release - saxophonist Carsten Meinert Kvartet's 'To You'.  Backed by musicians including bassist Henrik Hove, pianist Ole Matthiessen and drummer Ole Streenberg, the album was recorded between 1968-69 and was created in reverence to the iconic John Coltrane before being released independently to little fanfare.  Kvartet's touching tribute is gifted to the world once again following a meeting with Vingaard who received Kavartet's blessing to house the project more than 45 years after its initial release.

3. 'Equinox' by José James (2018)

Initially released in 2008, José James' 'The Dreamer' helped establish the vocalist as a leading and innovative voice for contemporary jazz.  Steeped within a hip-hop sensibility, 'The Dreamer' demonstrated James' penchant for always wearing his influences on his sleeve boasting a selection of covers as disparate as Freestyle Fellowship ('Parkbench People') and Rahsaan Roland Kirk ('Spirits Up Above').  But it was the album's 10th year anniversary re-release that showcased four additional tracks in tribute to one of James' musical heroes in John Coltrane.  Recordings of Coltrane tributes by James presented to Gilles Peterson is what garnered him his two album releases through Brownswood Recordings with the follow-up arriving 2010 in 'Black Magic'.

4. 'After the Rain' by Ant Law & Alex Hitchcock (2022)

Housed on the collaborative project from guitarist Ant Law and saxophonist Alex Hitchcock, 'Same Moon in the Same World'.  With live performances shelved for a large portion of Covid's quarantine period, Hitchcock & Law embraced the opportunity to connect with artists from varying parts of the world using online methods securing an incredible array of international talent including Joel Ross, Eric Harland, Jasper Høiby, Linda Oh, Kendrick Scott, Shai Maestro, Tim Garland, Ben Williams and Sun-Mi Hong.  Over the course of the album's nine tracks, compositions are shared evenly between the album's co-creators before a collective dothing of the cap to John Coltrane's 'After the Rain' which arrives in the form of the album's exquisite closing number.

5. 'A Love Supreme' by Robert Glasper Experiment (2012)

Released as one of three bonus tracks in support of 'Black Radio' - and finally housed all together on the album's ten-year anniversary release from Blue Note - the Robert Glasper Experiment deliver an eclectic jazz fusion take on Coltrane's signature number.  And with Casey Benjamin's unmistakable vocoder work delivering the iconic "a love su-preme" motif that the song is built around... bliss!

An essay written in 2015 by jazz pianist Lewis Porter delved in to unravelling Coltrane's seminal piece of work.  He astutely cites that Coltrane's chant of "a love supreme" - a chant that is preceded by the very motif having been played by Coltrane throughout the song in various registers - acts as something of a "revelation" that God is everywhere and that by holding back the actual words until the song's closing moments, it comes with the realisation that faith is something that people discover for themselves at different times.

No comments:

Post a Comment