The year 1965 marked the break-up of John Coltrane’s classic quartet and the saxophonist’s full absorption into the phonics and fury of jazz expressionism. This album, recorded at the end of a week’s run at Seattle’s Penthouse club in October that year, captures a pivotal stage in that transition. The classic quartet were intact, but a second bass player, Donald Garrett, stirs the waters underneath, and saxophonists Pharoah Sanders and Carlos Ward push sonics into the realms of white noise.
Music from that Penthouse residency was released in 1971, four years after the saxophonist’s death, and seemed to confirm Coltrane firmly in the avant-garde. This recently discovered performance of Coltrane’s rarely performed masterwork, A Love Supreme, suggests the transition was not complete.
The original themes and staging posts remain in place as does the flow in mood. But introductions are stretched, interludes showcase the expanded rhythm section, and there are more solos in between. This gives a chance to compare new practices with what went before.
The album begins with Coltrane’s brief statement of “Acknowledgement”, Love Supreme’s opening theme, and bassist Jimmy Garrison’s riff prompting a change of tension and pace. But the opening mood is extended, the change is gradual and it takes a while for Coltrane’s sax to return.
The pulsating polyrhythmic swing of “Part II: Resolution” is straightforward enough, but it is introduced by a bass duet. And before “Part III: Pursuance” blasts along at twice the speed, there is a second interlude showcasing the power and sensitivity of Elvin Jones’s drums; the piece ends with the bass duets of “Interludes 3 & 4”.
As Coltrane’s solos progress, soulful sonics morph into serrated split notes, thus cueing the ferocity of saxophonists Sanders and Ward. But on “Part IV: Psalm” Coltrane is the only lead voice, soaring majestically, fuelled by the emotional power of his original band and buoyed by the plangency of an additional bowed bass.
‘A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle’ is released by Impulse!