John Coltrane – A Love Supreme – Best Jazz Album Ever.

En ningún momento hay fin. Siempre hay que imaginar nuevos sonidos, nuevos sentimientos que transmitir. Y siempre, está la necesidad de mantener lo más refinado posible esos sentimientos y sonidos, de manera que podamos ver realmente lo que hemos descubierto en su estado puro, ver lo que realmente somos y poder transmitirlo.

John Coltrane.

“A Love Supreme” es uno de los mejores discos de la historia del jazz, editado en el año 1964. Es una “suite” que consta de cuatro movimientos y estuvo a cargo del cuarteto compuesto por John Coltrane en el saxo tenor; McCoy Tyner en el piano; Jymmy Garrison en el contrabajo y Elvin Jones en batería. Este disco formo parte del jazz posmoderno o vanguardia jazzística, específicamente de lo que se conoció como free-jazz.

“A Love Supreme” es una clara muestra de equilibrio entre virtuosismo, improvisación y  composición. En sus movimientos es posible percatarse de la utilización de la estructura del blues, que este cuarteto domina muy bien, incluyendo elementos de los cantos religiosos, de los ritmos africanos, del bebop y del jazz modal.  A lo largo del disco hay una intensidad que no decae, el sonido sigue tan hipnótico y exultante hasta el final como al principio. Para poder llevar esto a cabo Coltrane contó con grandes músicos. Tyner en el piano se caracterizaba por el uso de acordes percutidos al igual que Monk y  Bud Powell, su sonido era melódico y concentrado. Utiliza una gran cantidad de arpegios al momento de la improvisación, y pasea por todos los rincones del piano, no dejando espacios sin explorar. El baterista Elvin Jones es realmente sorprendente, pues sostiene durante largos minutos todo  el desahogo y desgarro musical sosteniendo esa polirrítmia durante todos los movimientos. El contrabajo de Garrison marca la estructura, y es la pausa y la entrada para el resto de los músicos.

Los notas que toca Coltrane en este disco son de un sonido violento e histérico, ruidoso y enérgico. El camino de la obra es un trance, un rezo de una infatigable entonación, en donde se escarba en las cadencias musicales, en esa búsqueda de las pequeñas grietas del sonido. El timbre de su saxo tenor es quebradizo, son gritos desgarradores que retumban incesantemente. Trane toca como si quisiera dejar su voz ahí dentro. Todo el peso de su composición enaltece el espíritu cada vez que se oye.

Los cuatro movimientos de esta composición son “Acknowledgement”, que se traduce como “ Reconocimiento”; “Resolution”; “Pursuance”, que es la “búsqueda” y “Psalm”, salmo. El primer movimiento  se caracteriza por la percusión de  acordes en el piano que actúan como colchón melódico para la entrada de Coltrane.  A los pocos segundo se une el ruido intenso de los platillos produciéndose una especie de  “clímax” que se interrumpe por el sonido del contrabajo, cortando al resto de los instrumentos, aunque es solo una excusa para que posteriormente irrumpan la sección rítmica, el piano, y el saxo de Coltrane, quien rescata sonidos desde el fondo del alma, como si alguien estuviese señalándole lo que debe tocar. Es un diálogo de frases cortantes e intensas con muy pocos silencios. Así avanza el tema hasta a la aparición de la voz de “Trane”  repitiendo “a love supreme”, de una forma hipnótica y exultante.

El segundo movimiento se inicia sin Coltrane. La entrada esta a cargo del contrabajo a la que luego todos se unen con gran intensidad sonora. Aquí son constantes los duelos de Coltrane y Tyner, quienes se embarcan en una búsqueda, mientras son sostenidos por Jones y Garrison.

El tercer movimiento comienza con un “solo” de batería. Posteriormente entra el resto del cuarteto. Este tercer movimiento se encuentra ligado con el cuarto por la línea de contrabajo.

A estas alturas parece todo completamente claro, el mensaje ya ha sido entregado y podemos estar en paz (al menos por unos minutos) pues es inevitable escuchar nuevamente el disco y volver a la búsqueda de esos sonidos y sentimientos que nos transmite Coltrane.

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Ask any jazz fan worth his or her salt what the best jazz album of all time is, and the conversation shouldn’t get far (maybe three or four titles at best) before naming ‘A Love Supreme.’ It’s arguably the greatest album by jazz’s greatest saxophonist playing with his greatest band. Some may be partial to another Coltrane album like ‘Blue Train,’ ‘Giant Steps’ or even ‘Live at the Village Vanguard’ (which is a personal favorite), but personal preferences aren’t what this is about. It’s acknowledgment of a jazz masterpiece. ‘A Love Supreme’ is an album that changed the game for all musicians who played at the time and have come since then — I’ll wager a princely sum that there isn’t a jazz saxophonist out there who hasn’t spent some time studying the mysteries of this album.

Whereas John Coltrane was famous for his lengthy excursions in Miles Davis’ band and in his own studio and live performances, this music was far more than an amazing jam session or a great collection of songs, though it is both. The album is also the sound of Coltrane’s spiritual awakening arranged as a four-part suite: ‘Acknowledgement,’ ‘Resolution,’ ‘”Pursuance’ and ‘Psalm.’ The entire length is a concise 33 minutes, yet it is missing nothing.

Conceived by Coltrane during four days of contemplation in 1964, the album’s material was fully formed at the end of his seclusion; everything including the transcendent title was worked out. Three months later, this timeless piece of music was recorded in a day. As with many great songs, the melodies are simple but memorable. It’s also worth noting that the quartet was in top form at this point, having worked together steadily for three years together.

The album’s first track. ‘Acknowledgement,’ opens with drummer Elvin Jones’ Chinese gong. Calling the jazz faithful to prayer, Jones announces this unprecedented work with the an Eastern mystical sound as Coltrane on tenor throughout, pianist McCoy Tyner and bassist Jimmy Garrison come floating in. By the design of the composer, it’s a look skyward in praise of God and announces that all that follows will be a communion. Then Garrison starts in with the signature four-note line, providing an earthly anchor. Coltrane begins his solo not coming to the theme immediately, instead building to it, then moving beyond. The band provides jet-powered wings that send him ever onward before finally returning to earth alongside that same bass line. In case you not sure what’s going on, Coltrane lends a hand by chanting the title as if proselytizing to the masses that this is more than just music.

 ‘Resolution’ begins with Garrison playing a complex set of chords by plucking two strings at the same time. Coltrane enters with the rest of the band for what is the strongest theme of the album. Again, the ascending notes are pushed furiously skyward as the saxophonist celebrates his inspiration. Tyner soon weighs in heavily with his own signature solo that ends with a complex but pounding set of chords that seemingly sends shock waves through the air, and he doesn’t let up as Coltrane comes back in. Rather than take the energy up immediately, the saxophonist works his way somewhat atonally through the middle register at a jog while nonetheless remaining authoritative. Eventually, he scales ecstatic heights before easing into the final refrain.

Jones launches ‘Pursuance,’ the longest track at 10:42, with a minute-and-a-half solo. Coltrane offers an opening theme and then steps aside for Tyner to tackle the fast-paced tune with a probing solo that counters the block-like previous one. The band stretches out here with some of the finest, most high-energy playing between Jones and Coltrane (which is saying something), before the saxophonist drops out to give Jones a second solo section. The song ends with Garrison’s solo segment, which offers a moment of contemplative respite from the exalted playing before it.

‘Psalm’ carries on the contemplative feel but adds more emotional drama as the band churns away. Jones, in particular, on kettledrums brings a magnificent gravity to the proceedings. Again, there is an elevated feel to the proceedings where it sounds like jazz but achieves a higher calling. Coltrane solos through much of the piece, in a gentle but not entirely melodic way — it’s the sound of saxophonist fluttering away, locked into a trance and sounding as if his is only a conduit by which the horn is playing itself.

Musically speaking, this album was a stepping stone that led the saxophonist further and further afield. While the soloing and group improvisation is quite advanced, Coltrane was still holding onto a minor key blues-based form at this point. Soon, Coltrane would move into his final and most avant-garde period, which only ended with his death from stomach cancer in 1967. These later albums are more adventurous, though there is no question that ‘A Love Supreme’ is a landmark that transcends jazz, music and art. It’s a statement of faith where music says so much more than his words ever could.

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