John Coltrane
Ascension


3.5
great

Review

by Tristan Jones EMERITUS
August 26th, 2014 | 169 replies


Release Date: 1966 | Tracklist


I am fairly certain -- and I say "fairly" since after listening to Ascension repeatedly for hours I am not entirely certain of anything -- that fans of this piece of music can be organized into two categories: those who claim to understand it, and those who admit they can't. Whether or not this particular creation can be considered great is indeed subjective, but there's one thing it isn't: conventional. Now, describing a musician as "defying convention "is practically a go-to for anyone attempting to shed light on an experimental composition, but many experimental pieces of music still adheres to some conventional quality. Does it attempt to tell a story" Does it instill a specific mood" Does it utilize melody" Suffice to say, Ascension does none of those things.

It is a grand display of instrumental prowess, however. Every musician Coltrane hand-picked is a master in his respective field, and the album could easily serve as a representation of the who's who in the world of jazz, circa 1965. McCoy Tyner, arguably one of the greatest pianists in the genre, delivers a finger splitting solo around the thirty minute mark. Drummer Elvin Jones rarely, perhaps never, uses any discernible rhythm yet manages to keep the piece flowing. The accompanying saxophonists -- including the renowned Pharoah Sanders -- belt out hysterics interrupted briefly by the occasional solo. Attempting to adequately describe the various sounds present on Ascension could drive a sane man crazy, but there is no denying the level of emotion on behalf of each of the members as they lash out in histrionic bliss.

Ascension is like the Labyrinth in Greek mythology. The further you venture, the more confused you will find yourself. The musicians of Ascension are like the Minotaur -- while they might hold dominion over the composition, they are just as lost as those who choose to wander in. It's futile to attempt to understand Ascension as there is nothing to understand. It isn't meant to entertain you and it isn't meant to excite you. John Coltrane had no intentions of pandering to any particular fan of music when he created this; he simply created it. Due to its very nature, it is probably the most polarizing album in the Coltrane discography, and could be the best thing you've ever heard just as likely as being the worst.



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user ratings (275)
Chart.
4.2
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyOnTheSpot
Emeritus
August 26th 2014


6680 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

talk about overdue for a review



*I honestly have no clue what to 'rate' this, and only did because sputnik forced me :X

this is really a case of love/hate



feedback appreciated

jefflebowski
August 26th 2014


8573 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

really excellent review. i would normally steer clear of writing in the first person but it's not a major drawback here



'that fans of this piece of music can be organized into two categories: those who claim to understand it, and those who admit they can't'



isn't that paraphrasing a quote about quantum physics by someone? it's certainly similar

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Emeritus
August 26th 2014


6680 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@jeff - I *should* know that since I study physics but I'm at a loss... so if it's a paraphrase it's accidental, or I pulled it from my

memory bank unknowingly, idk

jefflebowski
August 26th 2014


8573 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

hey, i'm studying physics too! i think it's niels bohr or someone but w/e



never been a huge coltrane fan personally but this is far too interesting for me to give it a low rating

Gyromania
August 26th 2014


26490 Comments


"Drummer Elvin Jones rarely, perhaps never, uses any discernible rhythm yet manages to keep the piece flowing, albeit without direction."

you already established it's without direction, so "albeit without direction" is superfluous

"Attempting to adequately describe the various sounds present on Ascention could drive a sane man stark crazy"

*Ascension. i'd remove 'stark'. i think you, like myself at times, attempt to cram too many descriptive words into one sentence, but for the sake of flow 'could drive a sane many crazy' sounds much better imo.

"Ascension is like the Labyrinth of Greek mythology. "

in*

the review is good, and i like the random references at the end to greek mythology. however, the final sentence seems nonsensical when considering the review as a whole, because you talk about its lack of accessibility, therefore it surely isn't a good place to look for confirmation that coltrane is one of the best


Gyromania
August 26th 2014


26490 Comments


oh and hey i'm studying physics as well! hi5

jefflebowski
August 26th 2014


8573 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

most scientific thread on sputnik: achieved

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Emeritus
August 26th 2014


6680 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@ Gyro - I'll edit, thanks



I also thought the final sentence made perfect sense. I didn't mean to imply this was his 'best' when I said god-tier reverence. I was

kinda referring to the almost religious level of following this guy has, and this type of piece kinda ties into that. "he just created it"...

know what I mean?



making an album like this was a bold move, and people either loved it or hated it -- polarizing. I could make some cheesy religious

references there, but I thought it was kinda self-explanatory, but apparently not



(fucking comment edit)

ExplosiveOranges
August 26th 2014


4408 Comments


Sweet rev, Johnny. I haven't listened to much of Coltrane other than A Love Supreme, so I'll jam this soon.

jefflebowski
August 26th 2014


8573 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

in that case prepare your anus for free-jazz insertion



honestly i think giant steps is a better next listen after love supreme

Gyromania
August 26th 2014


26490 Comments


no no, i just meant that "In the unlikely event that you need further reason for John Coltrane's god-tier level of reverence in the realm of jazz music, look no further than Ascension." reads a lot like, 'if you need more reason to respect john coltrane, look no further than ascension,' which seems incongruous with the rest of your review, because you mention that it's not very accessible and is generally polarizing, therefore the final statement isn't necessarily true for at least half the people listening. it's not that you said it's amazingly good or anything. i'm probably being way too nitpicky here though

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Emeritus
August 26th 2014


6680 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Right, but the sheer fact that this can be ultimately polarizing ties into everything. I think the fact that Coltrane was bold enough to put something like this out speaks volumes of his 'artistic merit' if that makes sense. Whether or not you enjoy this, you can't deny releasing this shortly after A Love Supreme demands some sort of respect

Gyromania
August 26th 2014


26490 Comments


fair point. i haven't actually heard this myself, but you've convinced me to check it out.

cryptside
August 26th 2014


2397 Comments


Pos'd hard, my friend. I see where Gyro is coming from in regards to his criticism of the last
sentence, but here is my two cents. Instead of using the word 'reverence', perhaps use 'skill' or
'technical proficiency'. That would shift the concluding sentence to focusing on the technical ability
of Coltrane, which wouldn't cause the reader to assume that this is not necessarily his best overall
release, just his most skillful.

I'm not sure this makes sense, but I've tinkered around with this wording as much as I can without
succumbing to insanity lol. Nice review, man!

beefshoes
August 26th 2014


7197 Comments


Posd, nice man. I still need to check this out.

ethos
August 26th 2014


1895 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

thank you for writing this, i also dug the mythology reference!



you did a great job of explaining it to the point you're (currently!) capable of and i'm so glad it

finally has a review. was even considering writing something myself but i knew someone would step up

in due time! (: ascension can be hard to pin down and i'll try to keep this comment short; but to me

almost nothing beats it's sound - just the strength of it all.... it -is- an ascension. the deep

bellows of how it opens on edition ii, it snagged me right from the start and it always does to this

day.. every time i hear it i know something spiritually endowed is approaching



there's so many gripping sections twined into the composition scattered all around and how they're

constantly trying to lift higher and higher, i feel as though it's an enlightened celebration of

god. i've been so close to a love supreme ever since i was a child to the fact that lately it rarely

even elicits anything out of me. and by that i mean nearly every single rhythm/note hit is just

embedded into my mind to the point where i don't even know what to do with it anymore - how to

dissect it. it's all surely brilliant (fav section being the double bass solo leading into psalms),

it's just that it just feels so "right" or "natural" when i hear it that jazz can't even begin to

put a placeholder on it's genre or sound. it has existed as an example of what all music should

strive to be at it's core

ethos
August 26th 2014


1895 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

i found ascension at the beginning of this year and it showcased what i always hoped jazz/coltrane

could reach, breaking the mold of its own genre. and by saying that i guess i mean that it exists

for me to always revisit, no-one can "tag" it - there was nothing before it that was presented in a

similar fashion and to this day there have been few "jazz" albums to even correlate to it's style

(to my ears). i feel as though coltrane and the musicians who played on this release were testing

barriers of music that wouldn't be explored until electronic instruments were pioneered (i.e. i hear

certain "noise" influences/melodies/rhythms that i can find in my fav releases of said genre but

this is much different and certain, it also expresses a far more elated emotion steadily coursing

throughout)



i'm rarely in the proper mood to even finish ascension. i don't have the mental stamina yet to

repeatedly grasp it within my mind on how i'd like and relay thoughts/ideas back and forth - but

sometimes in the right scenarios it has such certainty and sacrifice within the musician's sounds.

as if it's ritualistic, they're doing everything within their power to inch closer and closer to a

goal which isn't even defined - it's just a preconceived fact or notion on what they want. that idea

in itself to me alone warrants a five, it's just that here they exceeded all improvised

expectations. the intro to a love supreme? you can hear the bass of it here in various instances as

well as phrases from horns, desperately pushing to transcend the barriers previously set on

coltrane's masterpieces through pure emotion. the joy from a love supreme now lies -

here- for me, the exhaustion/sweat/desire i once knew i can once again feel all of. play this within

a closed space w/ no distractions at the highest volume possible and feel what these musicians were

after



after hearing this i read into a ton of coltrane's work/creative process/life cause the sounds alone

inspired me in a way i can't begin to describe, but if any of you are interested in hearing more

info regarding this album i've timestamped the 'ascension' portion of this documentary to chime in

on (all of it is amazing):



http://youtu.be/BPyWCkoOXYM#t=33m05s

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Emeritus
August 26th 2014


6680 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@ethos - wow man. it's impressive how much it's affected you

Chrisjon89
August 27th 2014


3833 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Dig this but prefer Meditations

Muisc4Life26
August 27th 2014


3467 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

sweet review, i disagree with the rating but good job.



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