A Love Supreme

John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" - Student Analysis

When I listened to this beautiful work of music I learned a lot. John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” was recorded in 1964. Before this wonderful song was created John Coltrane had isolated himself from his new start of a family (His married wife and two kids). His wife often said that he would be upstairs almost all day. Meanwhile, Coltrane was upstairs composing one of his well recognized, analytical, and undeniable well albums he has ever composed.  This album was broken down into four distinctive parts: Acknowledgement, Resolution, Pursuance, and Psalms. Each part having their own creative musical characteristics. This album is played with four instruments; the double bass, piano, drums, and the saxophone. The bass was played by Jimmy Garrison, the piano by McCoy Tyner, the drums by Elvin Jones, and the saxophone was played by none other than John Coltrane. Throughout this song, there was a lot of improvisation. Even in each of the four parts of the song, each part had its own rhythm, its own sound, melodies and improvisation! The Love Supreme is also highlighted for it’s deeper meaning. Coltrane’s deep focus in the Love Supreme were mainly about love and spirituality. He presented this song as a spiritual declaration and showing that his devotion to music is now intertwined with his spiritual beliefs. The song is meant to let Coltrane to express his love and dedication to a higher power through his different musical moods, emotions, and complex improvisations. 

A Love Supreme: Four Part Break Down

Part 1: Acknowledgement

In this section the tempo is fast and is comprised of energetic and passionate playing. Coltrane there is a chant of “The Love Supreme” that is vocally repeated and then caried out by Coltrane’s saxophone. This chant creates a unique and personal approach. Coltrane’s saxophone playing reflects a deep connection with his repetition creating a sweet melodic flow that conveys his themes of love and spirituality. 

Part 2: Resolution

In this section the tempo is slowed. Comparing it to the first section the melody is played more lyrically on Coltrane’s saxophone. Coltrane’s playing along with his band, filled this section with richness and emotion. This section embeds a sense of reflection, and helps the listener connect to Coltrane’s theme of love and spirituality. 

Part 3: Pursuance

In this section the tempo picks back up to fast. This section is filled with complex improvisation throughout the rhythm section. This is where you will hear the call and response playing come in, or more so a musical conversation if you will. The conversation occurs between the saxophone played by Coltrane and the drums played by Elvin James. This musical conversation between these two instruments created such a beautiful noteworthy performance. Still maintaining the idea of spiritual understanding and development. 

And Lastly Part 4: Psalms

This last section finishes out the song with a slow tempo and creates a more structured figuration. Coltrane’s saxophone solo plays a beautiful melody that contrasts with the background perfectly. The bass, drums, and piano all playing beautifully as the song finishes. This last section conveys a sense of devotion, as the theme of the song was finding the meaning and devotedness to spirituality. The songs slowly fades as it leaves listeners with a full heart of well-rounded expression through John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. 


By: Kaylana A. Barnes

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