Ascension – John Coltrane (1965)

“Conventional wisdom—and many people’s understanding of jazz history—asserts that John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme is the saxophonist’s masterpiece. Recorded in a single session with his indomitable Quartet on December 9, 1964, it almost makes sense as a variety of Christmas disc, an offering from the mind and soul of the true artist to a power beyond. It’s numinous but not preachy, and simultaneously as secular as cutting through an alley to get to the bar faster. The turnaround from studio to factory to shelves was swift. By January of the new year—which proved to be Trane’s fieriest annum—A Love Supreme was in record stores. Even though Coltrane had already been many places jazz musicians had not previously, something about the album felt different. Like the apex, the high-water mark. But we must be careful not to confuse a high-water mark with an end, or a crowning. Its creator saw but a door—and a new direction—instead. A challenge to extend and advance and even, dare I say, improve upon a recording that many will tout as a medium’s finest. That was the Coltrane way: out with the new, in with the new new. The Quartet itself was starting to crack as a going venture circa Christmastime 1964; not because it was running out of things to say, but rather because of Coltrane’s imperishable credo that he was finding new ways to speak. A Love Supreme has the air of a group performing at its own funeral—or, if not the actual service, then a rehearsal for one, testifying, in their own musical words, to what made them so special. It’s only art that lives forever, not bands. There’s no running down of A Love Supreme; its sublimity is unimpeachable, as much a law of the universe as boiled water turning into gas. But what I would suggest is that John Coltrane never made rawer, realer, rip-your-face-off-and-pull-out-who-you-really-are art than his infamous Ascension date from June 28, 1965. In its tonal ferocity, it’s merciless and yet, paradoxically, laden with that self-same quality that is the balm for all human suffering: mercy sprung from the well of compassion, understanding, and intimate communal byplay. …”
Highest Trane: John Coltrane’s World-Building Ascension
W – Ascension
Discogs (Video)
YouTube: Ascension (Full Album)

About 1960s: Days of Rage

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