John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme was by many measures the second-greatest jazz album of all time (after Miles Davis Kind of Blue). Ashley Kahn, having already given us a close look at Kind of Blue, now does the same for A Love Supreme. The album was quickly put together, recorded in a single evening by John Coltrane with McCoy Tyner (piano), Evil Jones (drums), and Jimmy Garrison (bass). Sometimes a great creation doesn’t need a lot of time, though. This was one of those times. A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album tells us the story of the album, how it was put together, the work of the jazz quartet before this album, and why A Love Supreme is so important. I loved it for the music history and the interviews as much as for the good stuff about the album itself. It has commentary from his widow Alice Coltrane and from Coltrane himself, photos, and lots of little stories.
Magnum opus from a Jazz genius
Kahn goes into a lot of detail here. He discusses Coltrane’s ideas about music and what he wanted from the album, describes the recording session itself, goes into the workings of Impulse Records, the label that released A Love Supreme, and even gives us some poetry connected with the album. John Coltrane was a very spiritual man and this album reflects that about him. The time when it was recorded (1964, in the midst of the civil rights movement and on the brink of cultural upheaval) is also not neglected. Coltrane set out to make the album in a single recording session and he did it. The result was jazz history and a huge commercial as well as artistic and critical success. His career became more controversial after this, but there’s little dispute that A Love Supreme was his most powerful album. The author’s a big fan of Coltrane, so this book isn’t dispassionate or detached, but that’s a plus in my opinion.