Sundog

Late Period Coltrane

39 posts in this topic

Seems to me that the big "problem" with late Trane ("problem" is in quotes because IMO it is a problem from one point of view, but may not be from another, or from others) has to do with this (to quote from something I wrote): "In 1961, Coltrane said, 'I admit I don’t love the beat in the strict sense, but at this phase I feel I need the beat somewhere.' By 1965, it had become clear, in the words of his biographer Lewis Porter, that Coltrane 'no longer wanted to swing' but rather to play over 'a general churning pulse of fast or slow.' Here, too, the example of Charlie Parker may have been crucial. While Coltrane was regarded by his peers as perhaps the most forcefully swinging soloist of his time, he could not, within a metrical framework, approach Parker’s dauntingly transcendent rhythmic acuity."

Nothing wrong with abandoning (or stepping aside from) the metrical framework IMO -- and you can argue that this was for some players at that time an absolutely necessary, logical step. The problem (or "problem") is, when you step away from the metrical framework, what (in specific musical terms) do you have left? What Cecil Taylor or Albert Ayler or Roscoe Mitchell or Evan Parker had left was IMO more than enough; no one could say that Taylor's or Ayler's or Mitchell's Parker's musics (each different from the others) weren't brimful of urgent rhythmic information. In late, post-metric Trane, though, where is the meaningful rhythmic information? Is it there, but I can't hear it? Or is that the weight of the music is being placed in other realms, and if so, where and how? Over the years, I've come up lots of "yes" and "no" and "I don't know" answers (and with lots of examples to back up how I felt). But I don't have an answer that feels right and probably never will.

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That is a very interesting question. When I listen to late period Trane (post McCoy and Elvin), I think that I find most of the rhythmic information in Trane's playing itself. Trane maintained a driving pulse in his playing that followed a basic logic. It can pull you along if you get inside of it.

Edited by John L

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Honestly, I don't see why this music seems to "intimidate" so many people. It really seems pretty straightforward to me in terms of what's being done, although, yeah, the emotional intensity is usually pretty high.

That's what I thought when I had the surprising experience of being unable to scare my wife out of the living room with putting on Ascencion or Ornette's Free Jazz yesterday! :o

Honestly, some of it is common language, musically, now, and the ground Trane has broken for the music is freely accessible ground now. He was one of the first musicians of whose records I tried to build a complete collection - I have been listening to all of this at one time or another, except for the Cosmic Music LP, of which I still await a reissue. I think it will not make much of a difference if you listen to it chronologically or randomly, but chronological listening will make his personal quest clearer - there is quite a leap in my opinion after Tyner and Elvin Jones left.

Stellar Regions holds a special place in my heart, very concentrated and a hint at things to come which we never will hear.

Transition (the track, not the album) is very special to me since the dialogue with himself Coltrane performs in his long solo was a mirror of my state of mind and soul at the time, and helped me to get over. Talk about healing music!

And Kulu Se Mama! Juno Lewis is one of the most moving singers I ever heard, and the way Trane and Sanders wave around his voice and the way he integrates his drum into the ensemble .....

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Honestly, I don't see why this music seems to "intimidate" so many people. It really seems pretty straightforward to me in terms of what's being done, although, yeah, the emotional intensity is usually pretty high.

I was trying to encapsulate some aspects of late Coltrane for myself and one key word that came up was awe. This is awesome music with the awesome nature front and centre. And, in fact, if you look up awe in the dictionary (or my dictionary) it says "reverential fear or wonder". So there you are...

And I do think there is something fearsome about Coltrane's later music, which is not to say that it's not Great, because I do think it's Great. But it's definitely not cuddly.

Incidentally, if you google "Coltrane awe", you come up with a hell of a lot of entries, by no means all for this later period. So the awe thing is not an original thought. Though the underlining of the fearsome aspect is.

That was just part of his sensibility, in my opinion.

Simon Weil

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the word I associate with this later (and actually much of the earlier work as well) is "truth."

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the word I associate with this later (and actually much of the earlier work as well) is "truth."

Oh, I agree. But truth can be a terrible thing.

Simon Weil

Edited by Simon Weil

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the word I associate with this later (and actually much of the earlier work as well) is "truth."

Oh, I agree. But truth can be a terrible thing.

Simon Weil

Maybe the fact that it indeed CAN be terrible makes it such a strong emotional experience to listen to (late) Trane? For me, listening to Coltrane's music - moreso for the later, say, beginning with "Crescent" - has something very personnal, something very moving, emotional.

"Truth" is certainly a rather good word in this context, "spirituality" would be another - and this then is a quality I perceive very strongly, although I do not consider myself a person open for spiritual things and experiences, usually.

ubu

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the word I associate with this later (and actually much of the earlier work as well) is "truth."

Oh, I agree. But truth can be a terrible thing.

Simon Weil

Maybe the fact that it indeed CAN be terrible makes it such a strong emotional experience to listen to (late) Trane? For me, listening to Coltrane's music - moreso for the later, say, beginning with "Crescent" - has something very personnal, something very moving, emotional.

"Truth" is certainly a rather good word in this context, "spirituality" would be another - and this then is a quality I perceive very strongly, although I do not consider myself a person open for spiritual things and experiences, usually.

ubu

I think he's getting in a zone a bit like "the sublime" in Romanticism (particularly I'm thinking about Romantic painting) as for example in:

16.jpg

[High Force or Fall of Tees by JMW Turner]

Kind of like "the sublime" coming out of the Afro-American tradition.

Simon Weil

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Incidentally, if you google "Coltrane awe", you come up with a hell of a lot of entries, by no means all for this later period. So the awe thing is not an original thought. Though the underlining of the fearsome aspect is.

That was just part of his sensibility, in my opinion.

I think the emotional power of this music is a big draw for me, but I have to say I also appreciate the nuts-and-bolts part of it too. Some music from that time and place leans heavily on the emotional power and when it works, that's great, but otherwise can fall flat or seem a bit shallow. Whereas with Trane's late music, the intellectual and emotional aspects are so tightly intertwined...

Guy

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Kind of like "the sublime" coming out of the Afro-American tradition.

Very interesting thought! And the comparison with romantic painting made me think of works that mirror what I hear in late Coltrane:

Prometheus.jpg

Prometheus, by Johann Heinrich Fuessli - perhaps a Swiss painter will make it easier for ubu ;)

And, of course, for the sublime:

blake4.jpg

Go on an image search "William Blake" and you'll see ...

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I was searching for another picture of which I did neither know the exact title nor the painter... to reply to Simon Weil's thought - I do understand it, but after not finding that painting and being pissed I forgot to reply here alltogether.

Mike, I love the few of "Fusely" as those crazy Britons used to call him paintings I have seen. At the Kunsthaus in Zurich there is/was (?, they're renovating all the time, each time you go and want to see something particular that room has vanished in air...) a great Füssli-room I often visited (18c being one of my special interests as a student of history, also).

And maybe the emerging out of the african-american tradition is what makes is possible for me to relate to it that strongly. The overtly religious (christian, mostly) "spirituality" usually leaves me rather cold...

ubu

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Here's a different aspect. The whole thing you get with "the sublime" in Romantic thought is to do with awe, vastness, wonder. But there's also a thing to do with extreme emotions in there - of terror, pain and fear. And, more particularly there's an aspect of violence of emotion. Not, necessarily, of violent emotion, note - but of extremely intense bursts of emotion. Both these things, violence and emotion, create problems in the context of Afro-American expression, because of the stereotype of blacks and violent and emotional, as they don't for art produced by other peoples.

So, in my opinion, you can get these things in Afro-American art but you have a real problem articulating that fact. Because immediately you start talking about them, people start thinking about that stereotype of blacks as uncontrolled, emotional and violent - and it just blocks them out from thinking any further.

So, I'm quite convinced that Coltrane is a great artist (and I hear his music as controlled) in these final years. But I think the nature of the content of his art in these final years - of its closeness in content to "the sublime" in Romantic art produces real difficulties for its appreciation - because people worry that in talking about emotion and violence they are getting too close to the racial stereotype for comfort.

It's like a thing that cannot be said or a zone that cannot be got into. But the fact is Coltrane's later music is like that, it is great, and these things are part of the reason why.

And talking about them helps people to understand the music, IMHO.

Simon Weil

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I don't know if you've seen "Field Of Dreams" but towards the end there's that scene where James Earl Jones is going to walk into that cornfield that leads to who knows where. He doesn't just walk right into it first he sticks his hand in the cornfield very tentatively and laughs and then walks into the cornfield off on his adventure. As far as that period of Trane's music is concerned that's where I'm at all I have to do is to will myself to walk into that "cornfield" and I know I'll be alright.

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