Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Beyond A Love Supreme: John Coltrane and the Legacy of An Album

Beyond A Love Supreme is a new book by Tony Whyton the author of Jazz Icons: Heroes, Myths and the Tradition (2010). This latest offering takes on not just a John Coltrane masterpiece but one of the greatest jazz albums of all time whose importance and influence cannot be overstated. Coltrane's emergence from a dark period coincided with a heightened sense of spirituality and creativity that came together in the recording of  A Love Supreme, which explains why the work is often regarded as one of redemption.

A Love Supreme is widely considered John Coltrane’s magnum opus and one of the greatest jazz albums of all time.   In Beyond A Love Supreme, Tony Whyton explores both the musical complexities of A Love Supreme and the album's seminal importance in jazz history. Marking Coltrane's transition from the bebop and hard bop of his earlier recordings to the free jazz style perfected
throughout the rest of his career, the album also embodies 
the deep spirituality that characterized the final years of his life. The titles of the four part suite—"Acknowledgment," "Resolution," "Pursuance," and "Psalm"—along with the poem Coltrane composed for inclusion in the liner notes, which he "recites" instrumentally in "Psalm," reflect the religious aspect of the album, a quality that contributes to its mystique and symbolic importance within the canon of major jazz recordings. But Whyton also shows how A Love Supreme challenges many of the traditional, unreflective assumptions that permeate jazz culture—the binary oppositions between improvisation and composition, black music and white music, live performance and studio recording. He critically examines many of the mythologizing narratives about how the album was conceived and recorded and about what it signifies in terms of the trajectory of Coltrane’s personal life. Sifting through the criticism of late Coltrane, Whyton suggests ways of listening to these recordings that go beyond the conventional ideologies of mainstream jazz practice and open the music to a wider range of responses. Filled with fresh insights into one of the most influential recordings in jazz history, Beyond A Love Supreme is an indispensable resource for jazz scholars, jazz musicians, and fans and aficionados at all levels.


“Tony Whyton has brilliantly revealed how it has become impossible to know John Coltrane's A Love Supreme outside notions of race, spirituality, history, authenticity, and nostalgia.  For me, it's like hearing the music for the first time.”—Krin Gabbard, Author of Hotter Than That: The Trumpet, Jazz, and American Culture

“Smart and engaging, Whyton's study highlights the multiple and ever-changing interpretations of Coltrane's most famous recording.  In the process, Beyond a Love Supreme serves as an important corrective to those efforts -- however well-meaning -- that might limit how we understand jazz and its people.”—David Ake, Jazz pianist and author of Jazz Cultures and Jazz Matters

Author Tony Whyton is Director of the Salford Music Research Centre at the University of Salford.   and co-editor of the Jazz Research Journal. Beyond A Love Supreme is Published by Oxford University Press. 

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