Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Love Supreme

I have had two things occupy my mind in the past week or so:

Jazz and Mysticism.

The jazz in question is of the Blue Note mid 1960's variety. the likes of Wayner Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Andrew Hill etc. This has been something of a rediscovery. In my early 20s (in fact a week before my 21st birthday) I started a huge jazz learning curve that started from going backwards from my great love; "Bitches Brew" to Thelonious Monk. It has been nice going back.


I remember the feeling of excitement of hearing "A Love Supreme" for the first time. This time of course, I understand the spiritual nature of the work.

Although the liner notes are overtly religious (not necessarily
Christian. Jesus is not mentioned.), the music is certainly more abstract. It is completely possible to enjoy the album without thinking about religion. However, I think it would be hard to not feel some sort of spiritual nature to the music. There are moments when Coltrane's playing is out of his control; an ecstatic spirit (the Holy Spirit?) binds the group together. Remarkable stuff indeed.

I attempted to explain all this to a pentecostal woman this week. She was talking about speaking in tongues, and I told her about Coltrane. She didn't seem that impressed by my analogy.

This of course ties in with my feelings about mysticism. The way jazz like Coltrane can express something that is non verbal, free, ecstatic, strikes me as analogous to that of the mystic experience.

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