Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, Fri., Dec. 13, 2002
John ColtraneA Love Supreme Deluxe Edition (Impulse!)
Saxophonist John Coltrane, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Elvin Jones had already formed the brightest constellation in the jazz universe when they cut their most revered and enduring masterpiece in under four hours during December 1964. Spearheaded by Coltrane's dazzling, exploratory virtuosity and the quartet's sensitive, telepathic interplay honed from endless live performances, the four-part suite evoked a palpable and awe-inspiring spirituality that was both a revelation in the jazz world and a Zeitgeist of the times. It also marked the pinnacle of Coltrane's career, elevating him in the minds of many to a messianic stature. This 2-CD "Deluxe Edition" presents, on one disc, A Love Supreme as released commercially in 1965. More notable is the second disc, which features the first "authorized" release of the only live version of the suite by the Coltrane Quartet. Recorded at the Festival Mundial du Jazz Antibes in July 1965, it's a volcanic, mesmerizing performance that illustrates the stratospheric direction in which Coltrane's playing had evolved. Equally noteworthy are a pair of previously unreleased, alternate studio takes augmented by young saxophonist Archie Shepp and bassist Art Davis. This reissue coincides with the publication of A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album by Ashley Khan (Viking Press), which documents Coltrane's waning popularity from this point until his death two years later, as the quartet dissolved and his music became more emotionally cathartic and sonically challenging. But for that brief moment, the Coltrane Quartet captured a deeply spiritual reverence that provided us a timeless masterpiece.