Friday, September 23, 2016

Petrichorus: After the 'Trane

video
Welcome to the weekend, and a milestone birthday tribute to someone more than a few consider the most important and transcendent musician of all times.
Not all that many in the musical field are worshiped as Saints, in a church named for them. Fewer still would be deserving of such an honor. Today's birthday boy is one such player.
It's hard to explain to people not of the same vintage or older exactly what his music is about, given that things in the last 50 years since he died have gone in the direction of pushbutton perfection, where the machines can cover for a lack of instrumental prowess. This was not always the case.
See, you used to have to be able to actually play, and the best players were the ones who could (crazy, I know) make their instrument say something comprehensible to the listener. The ultimate players were the ones like Glenn Gould, Jimi Hendrix, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker... guys and ladies that could command the evolution of their instrument and their area just by picking up their axe.
The really, absolutely stone-cold innovators -- the ones where you could say there was music before them and music after them, and those were two totally different things -- are the rarest of all. They come along and explode the possibilities not just in their genre or comfort zone, but across the entire spectrum of musical conception and expression. 
Somehow, in our lifetimes, we have been privileged beyond imagining, and have been exposed to a handful of such deities. Today's honoree -- other players of his instrument refer to him as The Father --  is surely one of the all-time heavyweight champions.
He did not live past the age of 40, yet his influence and presence remain as powerful as the summer day he left us in 1967. Honestly? If I had to choose the most powerful player of any instrument ever in human history, it would be a tough call but I might have to go with John William Coltrane.
The passions, prayers and pulverizations that poured from his horn changed the very lives of a whole generation of musicians across all stylistic boundaries, ushering in a creative revolution he was as responsible as any single person you might name for touching off.
There are stories of him in concert where people claimed to have met God, had their third eyes opened, perceived Forever's Infinity... whatever denomination of epiphany they were susceptible to had its seal ripped off and atomized forever, just by seeing him play.
Again, it's a tough call but if you had to say who did the most damage on their instrument, in terms of what was left in their wake after an impossibly short time among us, you might be left with Hendrix and Coltrane. And Hendrix? A lot of what he was doing was imitating -- especially in the sheets-o'sound, maelstrom feeling of it all -- you-know-who.
I jive a lot on here about this one and that one, and how what they came up with changed everything and it could never be the same... and, most of the time, I mean it. Today, though, is another level, and the argument could be made that if I had this page for another hundred years I would never get to feature a purer, more monumental musical figure than 'Trane.
If you know him, you know. If you don't, there's nothing I might say to pry you from beneath the rock under which you've dwelt these last six decades, other than to deliver the goods that will get you hip to what makes John Coltrane a name that will never, ever be far from the lips and minds of musos for centuries -- perhaps millennia, if we make it that far -- into the future.
Which brings us to today's megapostings, featuring a pair of items not sold in stores (or on Amazon either, for that matter). One is a terrific two-hour audio documentary -- sourced from the original, pre-broadcast CDs --  produced at WBGO-FM in New Jersey and sent to radio stations in 2002 for a one-time airing. This is hosted by noted hip-hopper and actor Mos' Def and details a career overview of Coltrane, all centered around the composition and recording of his acknowledged masterpiece, A Love Supreme.
The other bit has a longer story. See, there's this famous compilation of 'Trane's mellower, more instrospective cuts made for the impulse! label in the early 1960s, that's been around for decades, called The Gentle Side of John Coltrane, right? It has a long, 40 year history dating back to mid-1970s vinyl, and was issued on CD in 1991.
Thing is, there's always been confusion about why certain tracks -- like the completely face-frying multiphonic mayhem on the Live at Birdland version of I Want to Talk About You -- made it on there, as there is positively nothing gentle about what JC is doing to his saxophone in that performance. The vinyl had the 20-minute 1961 Village Vanguard take on Spiritual as well... again, surely one of the five greatest performances in the history of Jazz and maybe even all music, but not what I'd categorize as quiet or gentle.
The CD version also edited the seminal, Civil Rights-era-defining ballad Alabama -- composed after the bombing of the Birmingham church that killed three young girls in 1963 -- removing, for reasons no one can even begin to contemplate, the middle section of that incredible piece. 
Anyway, you needn't worry, as I have gone full excessive and fixed all of these issues, extrapolating the original vinyl running order to a full three CDs, with one each covering the quieter moments from 'Trane's Blue Note/Prestige, Atlantic, and impulse! periods. To say this is 4 hours and 40 tracks of some of the most beautiful and lushly gorgeous music of any kind ever made does little to describe the ecstasy on offer here, I'm afraid.
John Coltrane
Quietrane
1957-1965

Quietrane I - Violets for Your Furs (The Blue Note & Prestige years, 1957-58)

01 Don't Take Your Love from Me
02 While My Lady Sleeps
03 Why Was I Born?
04 You Leave Me Breathless
05 Theme for Ernie
06 Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?
07 Time After Time
08 Slow Dance
09 Like Someone In Love
10 I''m Old Fashioned
11 Violets for Your Furs
12 Stardust

Total time: 1:18:06

Quietrane II - Equinox (The Atlantic years, 1959-60)

01 Aisha
02 Mr. Syms
03 Central Park West
04 Blues to Bechet
05 Naima (alternate take)
06 Mr. Knight
07 Everytime We Say Goodbye
08 Original Untitled Ballad (To Her Ladyship)
09 Village Blues
10 Stairway to the Stars
11 Blues Legacy
12 I'll Wait and Pray (alternate take)
13 Equinox

Total time: 1:18:33

Quietrane III - After the Rain (The impulse! years, 1962-65)

01 Soul Eyes
02 What's New
03 Welcome
04 Nancy (With the Laughing Face)
05 My Little Brown Book
06 Lush Life
07 Wise One
08 Alabama
09 My One and Only Love
10 Feelin' Good (alternate take)
11 They Say It's Wonderful
12 Dear Lord
13 After the Rain
14 In a Sentimental Mood
15 Psalm

Total time: 1:18:43

sourced from the box sets Fearless Leader, The Heavyweight Champion, and The Complete impulse! Classic Quartet Recordings, as well as a few other albums

all three volumes zipped together
1.29 GB FLAC here
520 MB 320K mp3s here
The Making of "A Love Supreme"
WBGO, 88.3 FM
Newark, NJ
11.15.2002

CD1
01 documentary: interviews and music

CD2
01 documentary: interviews and music

Total time: 1:58:07

interviews include author Ashley Kahn with Alice Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones, Archie Shepp, Carlos Santana, and Branford Marsalis among others
narrated by Mos' Def

sourced from pre-broadcast CDs of a rarely-aired radio documentary
587 MB FLAC here
This took a lot of work, getting it all together and adjusted so it plays like one thing... the documentary is also very much worthwhile. I'd advise pulling down the lot and getting your head and ears next to what makes this man so special and such an ongoing force in the music of our world. The idea that he was born in 1926 and would have turned 90 today is, at the end of the day, just statistics and numbers. What he made possible and the avenues of expression he pioneered will never end and could only be just beginning, with any luck.--J.
9.23.1926 - 7.17.1967