“A Love Supreme” – John Coltrane

A Love Supreme is a song with a deeper message. It was released in January 1965 by Impulse Record label. The message has four parts: an Acknowledgment (of some emotion or issue),  Resolution, Pursuance, and Psalm.  Coltrane wrote out words for “A Love Supreme,” which was not a common practice within his music.  Through these words, he explained his piece and motivation.  Coltrane’s cover allows listeners to follow along with the music and understand a more profound meaning of Coltrane’s message.  It became Coltrane’s best-selling album and was nominated for a Grammy.

A steady high hat beat and an ongoing “chase” within the percussion section act as a race.  It is working hard to keep up with the piano and saxophonist.  Often, the drums fall behind, but not enough to be visibly an issue.  The words “A Love Supreme” act as the melody.  This melody shifts between the different instruments.  It starts with the bass, followed by saxophone, features a vocal artist, turns to piano, and ends with bass again.  Written in a four-part suite, the saxophone’s role is to establish the acknowledgment and tell the story.  The saxophonist is telling a story about love and its supremacy within God.  Around five minutes into this piece’s account, you can hear “A Love Supreme” repeated by the saxophonist and eventually a vocal artist (poet).  The harmony factor is present within the acknowledgment when Coltrane shifted the key in which he played “A Love Supreme” on his saxophone.  The resolution (part II) of “A Love Supreme” also presented harmony with the melody that was repetitive yet highly impactful in the resolution.  The Pursuance (part III) of “A Love Supreme”  opens with a drum solo and later introduces Coltrane on his saxophone in a fast and hectic tempo to express the chaos going on in his life and other’s lives.  The Psalm (part IIII) expresses his feelings towards God and towards his life. 

During this piece, there are numerous forms of improvisation.  Throughout the song, there is heavy repetition within the multiple instruments.  While the saxophone plays, you can notice the artist is going up and down chromatically, almost scale-like during the improvisation.  The piano works closely behind the storyteller and follows the improver closely with some improve while keeping the story’s overall message on track.  The piano acts as an interlude to tell its dismissal of the story that the saxophonist primarily tells.  Within the resolution (part II), the piano has a large improved solo segment that acts as the glue to keep the piece together.  To millions of musicians, “A Love Supreme” is their bible.  They review it often to teach them and allow them to develop a deeper understanding of Jazz.  Coltrane composed “A Love Supreme” as an offering to God.  At the same time, he thanked him for gaining power through the expression of his music. “A Love Supreme” true meaning was to remind people that we are all connected on our paths by our god while he mixed modern jazz with the ecstatic energy of black church music.  It is also known as Saturday night music, with a Sunday morning feel.  The piece resembles the sense of a church service, beginning with bass acting as the benediction, the saxophone solo acting as a sermon (preaching a message to listeners), and a call and the response of “A love supreme” from the vocal artist (poet).

A love supreme was created during a rough time for the negro people.  Events such as the Church bombing that killed the black girls occurred during this time.  During the Civil Rights Era, many negro people were in a deep depression caused by the unfortunate events that happened to them or their people.  “A Love Supreme” reminded these people of the supremacy of love and acted as a guide to the lord to get these people through rough times and hardships. 

I believe “A Love Supreme” is a heavy-weight piece that is impactful in many ways.  After researching the piece, I was highly moved by the deep thought and consideration behind it all.  As a woman of faith, I find Christianity extremely important, and I’ve never seen any jazz piece resembling Christianity.  Also, after learning the deep thought Coltrane put into this work, I became more appreciative of his efforts.  Overall, I enjoy “A Love Supreme” and Coltrane as an artist. 

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