We all know John Coltrane, whether it be through Miles Davis' quintet and the Kind of Blue
album, or his own legendary career as a solo jazz artist. We have all heard A Love Supreme
, whether we like it or not. When discussing jazz with someone, there is a chance that at one point or another, Coltrane will be brought up. This is not only because he is a popular figure in music, but also because the man, in his all too brief lifetime, recorded some of the most inspiring music to flow through the ear.
A large portion of this music could only happen because of his so-called spiritual awakening
and his effort to overcome alcohol and heroin addiction (something which was common among jazz musicians). A Love Supreme
may have been his ultimate testament of faith, serving as a sort of prayer or collection of psalms, but his most moving work music was created as he shifted his focus on free-jazz and the avant-garde. Ascension
was colossal; a solid forty minutes of religious orgasms. The addition of tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders only furthered the ecstasy.
Next came Meditations
; a continuation of the avant sound. Returning to the lineup again is Pharoah Sanders, McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones, along with Jimmy Garrison on bass and Rashied Ali on drums. All of these musicians fulfilled their purpose, contributing to the seemingly amorphous nature of Coltrane's later period music. "The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost" begins immediately with Coltrane and Sanders' interplay and feverish squeals slowly easing in, as the rhythm section builds and John plays the first solo on Meditations
; this is when you know how wondrous the experience really is going to be. Following the chaotically serene opener is "Compassion" and "Love", two pieces which rely much less on fractured rhythms and solos, allowing the listener room to breathe. Though seemingly tranquil, both give one the feeling that some things are going to explode.
Surprisingly enough, nothing after these two peaceful laments comes as close to the feverish "The Father and the Sun and the Holy Ghost". Although "Consequences" begins initially as an exercise in Sanders' trademark sheets of sound
and how hard each musician can push each other, it gradually shifts pace and mood until we are left with a wonderful piano solo courtesy of McCoy Tyner. This provides an apt transition into the even more aptly named "Serenity". A brief three minutes in length, "Serenity" closes an album of excitement with peacefulness and delicacy, something that John Coltrane more than likely felt himself when he discovered something above humanity.
Despite obvious negative connotations forced up free-jazz and the avant-garde, it is not particularly hard to immerse yourself in Meditations
, an album which somehow emulates peaceful introspection and the world of the spiritual through abrasive sheets of sound and clusters of rhythms. It may not be as frequently recognized as past albums such as Giant Steps
or A Love Supreme
, but Meditations
serves as a unique look into the mind of John Coltrane and his sextet, which is unrivaled by the rest of his recorded works. You may never quite enjoy the sounds present, but you may be capable of appreciating them.