Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2Cor.5:17
Introduction– So there I was a half hour early, all set up and ready. Good, I will grab a coffee and read something until my first client arrives. The magazine selection was as expected for a senior citizens home, nothing much unless Oprah does it for you. There was a copy of ‘Faith and Friends’, a Salvation Army publication, but there was no way I was going to read that fluffy stuff today. You see I find the pursuit of a relationship with God to be more than a little trying, and needed something to sink my teeth into without God Talk. I had a John Coltrane album with me and with it a booklet I had never read, so that would do.
There are well informed musical people who feel John Coltrane is the finest composer of all time. Please understand this list would include Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Cole Porter, Lennon – McCartney, Dylan, all of them. By 1964 he was enjoying unparalleled success in the jazz field. His albums, which often were presented in ‘Movements’, were considered the benchmark in jazz recordings, and were critically and publicly, acclaimed.
He would labor over sections of his music until it was just right. Each musician would be virtually conducted until all would be well. He of course, played the saxophone and worked hard, take after take, to make sure all was to his standards. On some recordings he had a singer (Johnny Hartman) whose large, lush voice would be featured, however John Coltranes recordings were largely jazz instrumentals.
In 1957 he had a conversion, and found himself “living away from God’s word”. Sometime just prior to the recording of ‘A Love Supreme’, he rededicated his life to God, and was overcome with gratitude. He prayed, and as he explained to his wife, received this particular piece whole (all four complex parts) and was satisfied there would be no changes. “This is the first time I have everything… everything ready” was the quote.
‘A Love Supreme’ was recorded in one day (December 9, 1964). This was no mean feat. Even in 1964 there was overdubbing, looping, echo (for reverb), and a multitude of technical things as well as the possibility of the composer changing his mind, to lengthen the process. An album could take months to do. One day, and the most popular jazz album of all time would be recorded.
It was nominated for two Grammy’s that year. Critics remarked… “an album long hymn of praise”, and “it feels so grateful”, and “a God praising poem”. These are critics who do not usually use these terms, in fact, I would say religiously turn from such descriptions.
By 1970, 500,000 of these albums were sold, and continue to sell incredibly to this day. I can remember hearing this album coming out of dorm windows and friends stereos, meeting areas, and even the common room at the SSJE monastery. I was once given a copy by a dear friend who felt I “should” have a copy (interestingly enough, he would have described himself as an atheist).
When people refer to John Coltrane’s career they speak of before and after ‘A Love Supreme’. I believe of course, that they speak of before and after his true acknowledgment of God. I have heard people say that “you listen to Coltrane until you get it, and then you find yourself listening to Coltrane all the time”.
The recording has been described in so many ways by so many people. I would say this, ‘A Love Supreme’ lifts you and carries you beyond any expectation, it truly is a hymn of gratitude, a gift to the listener, and a gift from and to, God. I remember seeing the original liner notes, and being a little doubtful, but as I read them today, I understand. I will let a quote from those liner notes finish this off.
“May we never forget that in the sunshine of our lives. Through the storm, and after the rain – it is all with God – in all ways and forever. ALL PRAISE TO GOD. With love to all, I thank you” John Coltrane.
Postscript: So there I was, tears in my eyes, sitting waiting for my first client. I understand that there need not be a ‘pursuit of God’, or any feeling that my turning away from Him will silence Him. I believe that God must have laughed that day as his petulant child, who was so intent on turning from ‘God Talk’, received it anyway. Ted
Believing doesn’t make God’s Word true;His Word is true, therefore I believe it. Neil Anderson.