“No matter what…it is with God. He is gracious and merciful. His way is in love, through which we all are. It is truly – a love supreme.” – John Coltrane. On December 9, 1964 the John Coltrane Quartet, consisting of John Coltrane on tenor sax, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums visited the Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs to record one of the most influential, brilliant concept albums ever recorded. That album was A Love Supreme.
A Love Supreme was recorded in a single session and is considered Coltrane’s most seminal work. It is poetic, a sermon and a testimony translated into a magnificent aural feast that inspires the most rapturous emotions about God, spirituality and enlightenment. To listen to A Love Supreme can be inspiring and life changing; it’s the type of work most artists strive to achieve, not matter the medium, but are lucky if they get remotely close to. Coltrane died almost three years after this recording at the age of 40. He never got to witness how this opus impacted the music world, but I feel safe in saying that Coltrane’s autobiography and legacy was summed up in this piece. For me it was the musical equivalent to the “Big Bang Theory” – a melodic explosion that created an alternate universe where I was able to explore and gain a deeper understanding of the world in which our bodies reside. In other words, A Love Supreme was an introduction to the metaphysical plane here on Earth.
It has been 50 years since Coltrane and company recorded A Love Supreme in Englewood, New Jersey, and its relevance is just as potent today as it was back in the 1960s. In recognition of this important contribution to jazz and American music, Jazz Standard enlisted saxophone virtuoso Azar Lawrence to celebrate the creation and recording of this masterpiece. The Azar Lawrence Quartet includes Benito Gonzalez on piano, Billy Hart on drums and Reggie Workman, who worked with Coltrane, on bass. The celebration was over two nights, December 9 and 10, and was a fitting tribute to this piece. Coltrane once said, “God breathes through us so completely…so gently we hardly feel it… yet, it is our everything.” It’s evident that the most high was present during the recording of A Love Supreme and the spirit of Coltrane was at Jazz Standard when the Azar Lawrence Quartet performed selections from this work. These men breathed passion into a work that is already filled with emotion. They were awe-inspiring. I fell deeper in love with this work, if it’s possible to do so. They played the house down and it was one of the best tributes I have been privileged to witness with my own eyes. The vibrations could be felt in every corner of the room. I believe we all left feeling connected. Thank you John Coltrane for creating a work that will last as long as human history exists. And thank you to Jazz Standard and the Azar Lawrence Quartet for allowing us to rejoice in a work and an artist that used his abilities to uplift humankind.