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Word the Cat

Vertigo and Coltrane’s Shadow

Posted by Chris on January 27, 2006 at 4:18 pm  

Black Propaganda alerts us to V/Vm’s swansong project. V/Vm365 will see stockport’s king of offal electronica upload new productions every day of the year for 2006. Not just one track a day either – in short, a lot of music. The gluttony of all this makes me look down at my stomach with an overpowering sense of vertigo…

Elsew(here), seems like it’s time for a second jazz post. In the last one, I almost managed to get away with not mentioning John Coltrane. The official account argues that jazz reached it’s historical/evolutionary peak with Coltrane and when he died, innovation died.
In his person Coltrane was said to be patient and intelligent – Saxophonist Noah Howard talks about meeting him backstage:

“I was really shocked. As powerful as the sound that was coming out, this was the most gentle and easy-going person i had ever met in my life. He didn’t get up and run around and drink liquor, scream and make noise and pull on women’s tits or anything like that, he just calmly walkd off the stage. It just wigged me out, I couldn’t understand it. I hadn’t thought about musicians being like that.”

Musically, it is said, Coltrane was all about expansion: most obviously in terms of composition length – Live in Japan features an hour long rendition of ‘My Favourite Things’. For record buying critics, the time element, places him at the peak of a musical/material evolution which started with the intoduction of 33s at the end of the 40s (78s could only record about 3 minutes of audio at a time).
The idea of expansion has been taken spiritually too – people have taken his music as expanding both minds and reality, blurring different planes together – check the Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church.

Here are a couple of pieces from the late 60s – after the famous quartet (Coltrane, Jimmy Garrison, McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones) had gone their separate ways. Coltrane died in 1967 and both these pieces were issued posthumously. Selflessness is from the album of the same name (recorded 1965, issued 1969) and Jupiter is from an album of duets with drummer Rashied Ali called Interstellar Space (recorded 1967, issued 1974).

John Coltrane – Selflessness 17.3mb

John Coltrane & Rasheid Ali – Jupiter 6.4mb

Coltrane’s influence was strongly felt by the next generation of saxophonists. This track by Frank Wright is a good example. It’s taken from his 1969 LP ‘One for John’ on BYG/Actuel.

Apart from Coltrane, Wright was strongly influenced by NYC street sounds. There are many stories of him sitting in his window playing along to honking taxis. Sonny Sharrock tells a story of him chasing a fire engine down avenue a in the late 60s blowing wildly on his tenor. Noah Howard plays alto on this piece.

Frank Wright – One For John/China part 2 20mb

Coltrane’s ghost has been invoked by dozens of players since his death. Think of Courtney Pine in London or David S Ware in New York. This Ware track is from 1996′s Gospelized LP.

David S. Ware – Wisdom Through Time 11mb

Pharoah Sanders had played saxophone with/against Coltrane in the last years of his life and was viewed by many as the player to succeed him. Sanders’ work as a bandleader combined Coltrane-style playing with a richer texture and a love of making the horn honk like a goose.

This percussion-heavy track features vocalist Leon Thomas and Sonny Sharrock on guitar and comes from Izipho Zam LP recorded in 1969 and released on 1974 by the Strata East label. For an excellent and exhaustive website on Pharaoh Sanders, Coltrane and ex-members of Coltrane groups amonst others check here.

Pharoah Sanders – Izipho Zam 34mb

Using exremely large groups was another envelope pushed by Coltrane. His ‘Ascension’ record featured 5 saxophonists, 2 trumpeteers, 2 bassists, piano and drums playing simultaneously. This approach was built on my a number of bandleaders including Alan Silva. Silva was Bermudan by birth and had played bass with pianist Cecil Taylor and drummer Andrew Cyrille (but that’s another post). This track, peformed by a 19 piece band, including Art Ensemble of Chicago’s Lester Bowie and Roscoe Mitchell, is from his 1970 triple LP ‘The Seasons’ recorded in Paris and issued again on BYG/Actuel.

AlanSilva & the Celestial Communication Orchestra – The Seasons Part Six 27mb

3 Comments »

  • Comment by rod warner on February 17, 2006 at 11:58 pm

great music! I like the stories about Frank Wright! Wasn’t Rahsaan Roland Kirk supposed to have been spotted dropping ice cubes out of a window once and imitating the sound of them hitting the street on his flute? The Alan Silva is a nice reminder as well…

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