Jump to content

Question for Trane Fans


Dan Gould
 Share

Recommended Posts

I hope that I don't get the "if you can't hear it that's your problem" dismissals (I'm looking at you, Chuck - :) but I am curious to hear what it is that makes Coltrane's mid and late period Impulse records such compelling music.

I'll be the first to admit that I have never found my way into that era and have always regarded it as "noise" - random "noise". Now I have heard from Jim S. many many times that if you get into the guts of the music, it is far from random and of course I accept his statement. But the music still strikes me as noise, with nothing that is appealing to my ears. So the question is, for fans of this period, what does make it appealing to you? The energy? The feeling of boundaries being exceeded? For that matter, is there a particular mood you have to be in to enjoy it? Would you listen to it with your Sunday paper and coffee? Or more when you are pissed off at the world?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It sounds very spiritual to me. To me, it sounds like he has tapped into a higher spiritual stream of consciousness and is making an attempt at delivering the sounds of his universe to the listener. There is no other jazz musician that I've heard that that has had this effect on me. I have never heard any anger in this music.....to me, it sounds he is experiencing the sheer joy of some sort of enlightenment, and is attempting to share this joy with the world. I hope this isn't a clichéd answer. Its just that I remember the first time I heard "Meditations", I got this sensation that this would be music that would be played in Sunday morning mass in some sort of alternate universe. And this was before I knew anything about Coltrane's religious convictions. It was just something I heard, and continue to hear, in this music. For me, as a person of little faith in the conventional sense, it gives me a feeling of peace.

On the flipside, I can completely see how that if I wasn't able to hear the music in this light, it would sound like random noise. I don't try to sell anyone on this stuff.

As far as the moods go, I'm not sure if I can identify what particular moods I'm in when I listen to this music. I seem to have these strong random desires to pull out these recordings and listen. I can tell you though, that I have never listened to these recordings on a Sunday morning or when I'm angry. I simply follow the voices that tell me to listen to them! :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Sal, its interesting that someone of "little faith in the conventional sense" would be struck by the "spirituality". Your comment about sunday morning mass in an alternate universe makes me think Trane was 'speaking in tongues' in an alien language - that's why its all gibberish to me. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

is there a particular mood you have to be in to enjoy it? Would you listen to it with your Sunday paper and coffee? Or more when you are pissed off at the world?

Yes, no.

But seriously, I find it to be absolutely beautiful music. "Selflessness" and "Ascension" are so staggering that they are for any mood. The opening motif of "ascension" especially just makes my neck hair stand on end and my ears wiggle in joy (true! they only do that when I'm most happy). To me, Coltrane's late work evokes feelings of bliss, and arouses in me a desire to find beauty in unlikely places (not only the music). Which is funny, I guess, since I don't buy into any "John Coltrane was a spiritual guide sent by the Ancestors" hokeyness.

I listen to Minor Threat's first EP when I'm pissed off. :rhappy:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think Chuck might say something about "context"... in my case, I didn't understand or enjoy late period Trane until I "eased in to it", listening and absorbing some of the music (both w/Trane and other musicians) that led up it, if that makes any sense.

For instance, it was the 1961 Village Vanguard Sessions that really helped me come to eventually appreciate the later stuff, followed by the "Classic Quartet" Impulse box set.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For me, it depends where you draw the line in the sand. Post-Love Supreme? Post-Elvin/McCoy?

Even when that line is drawn, there is a definite difference in the recordings. The Olatunji Concert is a different animal than Stellar Regions. Or Sun Ship vs. Interstellar Space.

Talking about lines, it is interesting what crosses the line for some folks. My wife can listen to Albert Ayler but she can't stomach Cecil Taylor's BN recordings. Others hew to traditional notions of consonance/dissonance and even-paced rhythms.

The thing that I love about that late period is the complete outpouring that Trane unleashes. Sometimes it can sound ferocious, sometimes as pastoral as can be. I loved the compositions that he used as jumping-off points. [ex.: Ogunde from that Olatunji concert, Welcome from Kulu Se Mama, Ascension, etc.]

Which records did you hear that turned you off?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For me, it's the joy of hearing the realities of complexity (and the complexity of reality) being deliniated in a way that is not only logical but moving, finding not only meaning but purpose (and again, vice-versa). I find that to be a very useful thing to have at my disposal as a part of my "life skills".

Unfortuately (or not!), all this is subhective, so at some point, some variant the "if you can't hear it, then..." almost has to result. But it needn't be critical or dismissive, It should be a simple objective observation that not everybody sees life the same lens(es) nor feels it with the same receptors, and that not everybody has the same needs in the face of what it is they see & feel. And those objective observations hold true for "both sides" - actually all sides, since there's more than just two POVs possible here - of the question.

Edited by JSngry
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is what it is. . .I like Clint's comment about ferocious and pastoral. . . .

It's such a subjective thing. It's always been just waiting there for me to hear and experience. I wouldn't say I enjoy it. I do enjoy experiencing it . . . .The way my life and situation is, I almost always experience it alone. And being alone, I'm vulnerable to it and I'm usually in a very open mood and state when I do place this on. I have no idea what it is "really" and I've never "really" heard it (as in live!) which would be one benchmark for analysis.

I often seem to hear a lot of pain in the music. . . cathartically released. That's just my impression, I don't claim it's really there! In general I don't try to analyze it, I just . . . experience it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For me, the best way to listen to late-period Trane is to lie down on the couch & close my eyes. Not to go to sleep... but to go somewhere else. Probably sounds as if late Trane is akin to a transcendental drug, but that's the kind of effect it has on me. It does require a way of listening that's different, I think, then the way we're conditioned to listen to music.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Actually, Trane often puts me to sleep - yes, even the late-period stuff. I find it all very soothing as powerful as it is.

That is one of the appealing things to me; he played with a force, energy, and vehemence yet not violently as some other free players might be described.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For me, it depends where you draw the line in the sand. Post-Love Supreme? Post-Elvin/McCoy?

Even when that line is drawn, there is a definite difference in the recordings. The Olatunji Concert is a different animal than Stellar Regions. Or Sun Ship vs. Interstellar Space.

'Sun Ship', to me, clearly ends an era. It's like he had been hanging on a cliff up to that point, then let go starting with 'Kulu Se Mama' the next month. Pharoah Sanders jumped in for the ride when he started the freefall from the cliff. Tyner and Jones were casualties. The transitional recordings of this period can be very painful to listen to (I'm thinking of 'Live in Seattle' and the dreaded 'Om'), in large part because of how at times Tyner and Jones don't fit where the music is going ('Meditations' being the exception - everything somehow came together on that album). Alice Coltrane and Ali were needed to bring some unity of direction. I don't like the late stuff nearly as much as what came before it, but I wouldn't have wanted Trane to stop his journey and repeat himself. I think he had done what he could do with the Tyner/Jones group, and needed to keep going out to see what that held. I actually even find his '67 work (I'm thinking of 'Expression') to be very different than his '66 work ('Live at the Village Vanguard Again', etc.). The fury in so much of the Sanders-era late '65 and '66 recordings was being replaced by something different. Not sure exactly what Trane was looking for in '67 - he didn't find it before passing, at least on record.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It took awhile for me to be able to fathom the late period stuff. But I think that was a natural progression with Trane, you almost have to study, absorb, dissect and analyze...then you can finally "let go" and just "let it be".

When I first started listening to Trane (very early in my jazz adventure) I couldn't get past Giant Steps...then a short time later it was the Village Vanguard stuff that was a little "too much"...but you keep listening to the language and you eventually comprehend it. Then later I hit a wall with Quartet Plays, then hit a major one with Ascension. The song that really pushed me over the edge into the later Trane was Welcome, there was such immense beauty there, I felt like I was being literally transported. Not long after that I started voraciously listening to the post Tyner/Jones group and have never had a problem with any Trane since.

But I've talked to plenty of people that never get past that 1965 group, but there's nothing wrong with that. If you don't feel it that's okay, stick with what moves you. But don't be afraid to go back and revisit from time to time, you never know when it might click...and when it does it can be some life changing shit.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For me, it depends where you draw the line in the sand.

To me late-period Coltrane is like a series of waves, so drawing lines in the sand becomes difficult. I think of certain albums as "quieter" consolidations of force that are still vibrantly powerful--FIRST MEDITATIONS and INTERSTELLAR SPACE, for instance. I think Coltrane was still looking back even as he was surging forward.

Well, now you made me go and put it on (INTERSTELLAR SPACE).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For me, it depends where you draw the line in the sand. Post-Love Supreme? Post-Elvin/McCoy?

Even when that line is drawn, there is a definite difference in the recordings. The Olatunji Concert is a different animal than Stellar Regions. Or Sun Ship vs. Interstellar Space.

Yup. That's a huge range of music that Trane packed into these two and a half years. A range that most artists don't produce in their entire careers.

The fury in so much of the Sanders-era late '65 and '66 recordings was being replaced by something different.

I hear less "fury" in the '66 recordings than in the late '65 recordings.

Guy

Edited by Guy
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I hope that I don't get the "if you can't hear it that's your problem" dismissals (I'm looking at you, Chuck - :) but I am curious to hear what it is that makes Coltrane's mid and late period Impulse records such compelling music.

I'll be the first to admit that I have never found my way into that era and have always regarded it as "noise" - random "noise". Now I have heard from Jim S. many many times that if you get into the guts of the music, it is far from random and of course I accept his statement. But the music still strikes me as noise, with nothing that is appealing to my ears. So the question is, for fans of this period, what does make it appealing to you? The energy? The feeling of boundaries being exceeded? For that matter, is there a particular mood you have to be in to enjoy it? Would you listen to it with your Sunday paper and coffee? Or more when you are pissed off at the world?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Dan,

I just like this music and it's hard for me to express exactly why. I really Coltrane's saxophone tone during this period, and the intellectual density/rigor of his playing. (That intellectual density/rigor is something I don't hear in some other free jazz saxophonists.) I like his playing with the Tyner/Garrison/Jones rhythm section on the 1965 quartet recordings (they only got better) and his rapport with Rashied Ali. Though I'll don't feel a direct connection to the spirituality expressed in the music, I do completely sense the passion behind it.

When I first discovered this music I listened to it ALL THE TIME. These days, I'll put it on the stereo whenever I feel like it.

Guy

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Try shutting off the part of your brain that labels what it hears as "noise" instead of pure SOUND. Put yourself in that altered state where the light streaming into the window looks different. That's part of what this music is about for me.

Stellar Regions is a good starting point, I think, because the performances are more concise.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd genuinely like to hear Chuck's thoughts on this subject -- beyond "what's not to like?".

Chuck, were you always a fan of Trane's later period? Or always as much of a fan as you later turned out to be? (I know my questions presupose some things, and perhaps not entirely correctly.)

For you, Chuck (or anyone else, for that matter), what helped you get into Trane's later work if your initial reaction wasn't as postive as it would later be?? (Note: I didn't say your initial reaction wasn't positive -- just that it got more positive over time.)

I've never really gotten bitten by the Trane bug, early middle or late. I 'like' the music, respect it a lot, and understand why it's important (and agree that it is too). I've just never been drawn to Trane even half as much as one would expect, give all my other interests.

(I'll avoid trying putting some catagory name to my interests, other than to say there's PLENTY of stuff I've liked over the years that's nearly as 'out' and 'in-your-face' as Trane -- that for some reason I've clicked with those things (Ornette, Don Cherry, Andrew Hill, Sun Ra, Larry Young's last 4 BN dates, etc...) WAY more strongly than I ever have with any Trane.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ra is the only of those you mention that's really near as "out" in the sense that Trane was "out."

I think Chuck would say this: "you had to be there." Not going to put words in his mouth (beyond that), but keep in mind that he was recording what would become the AEC in 1967 and working with the AACM guys around that time. So I wouldn't be surprised if late Trane was something he "got" right away.

Hell, it didn't take me much work - Expression was the first Trane I sat down with, that and probably the Selflessness record, and I loved it immediately. It was only subsequently that the greater context became clear.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As far as the "noise" thing goes - for myself, I can say that part of where I came into jazz "from" was psychedelic rock. So I was pretty much nonplussed by the notion of "noise" as music.

Of course, with Trane there was so much more to it than that, but that was one "hurdle to get over" that I myself didn't have to get over.

For somebody who "didn't know any better" such as myself, the leap from psychedelic rock to stuff like later Trane, Ornette, Ayler, & Shepp seemed to be a lot more "cultural" than musical. With the one, I got "the sound of now" what was being pimped by the industry and embraced by a large portion of my "peers" nationally, if not locally. With the other, there was this whole other "aura", one of Blackness & Militancy and just overall....Serious As Your Life-ness. I had no probelm going there, just because at my place & time, it really didn't make any sense to me not to. It was unambiguously a "different world", and that was exactly what I was looking for then. Turned out to be a pretty good fit, actually.

The "leap of culture" was large and obvious. The "leap of music", though, really wasn't that big of a deal. Seemed like the more than logical "next step" for me then, and in 30+ year retrospect it still does.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This won't help Dan any, but I came to later Trane from earlier Trane, Mingus, Ornette, Cecil, Ayler, and music that came before them. Trane's late music seemed to flow out of and fit into all of that. It never seemed problematic in any way.

A suggestion for anyone having trouble with later Coltrane: set aside what you usually listen to and try listening to early Louis, Johnny Dodds, Sidney Bechet; some blues singers - Son House (early or late), Willie Johnson, Garfield Akers, Bukka White, King Solomon Hill; some gospel quartets - Spirit of Memphis, Swanee Quintet, Swan Silvertones, 5 Blind Boys (Mississippi & Alabama); & religious singers/guitarists - Rev. Robert Wilkins, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Mamie and A.C. Forehand. This isn't a list just made up to drop names. I think that spending some time listening to and living with some of this music could put a person in a place where listening to Coltrane's later music might seem like a natural thing to do. (And if it doesn't help bring you to Trane's music, at least you'll have heard some great music that stands on its own.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interestingly, later Trane and Ayler brought me in reverse back to some of that music. Several fantastic collections have been released in recent years.

In writing the notes to the reissue of Patty Waters' ESPs, I compared her work to some of the vocal acrobatics/wide vibrato of some early 20th c. gospel singers.

Edited by clifford_thornton
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I actually think that Ascension is a portrait of America (not Black America, note) in the mid-60s. My feeling is that what differentiates late period Coltrane from early/ier is scale (the oomph of it); a lack of a sense of closure (which gives the music a sense of difficulty - compare to Love Supreme et al for a sense of resolution); and pain (the screaming of the music so characteristic of Pharoah Sanders et al. There is always pain in his music but it becomes much more explicit).

The vast energy of Ascension gives me the sense of nationwide scale. I don't know, just overall, the greatness of the music consists in that; its absolute refusal to take anything other than the most difficult route - and the sense of "all human life is here under duress".

Lack of closure is the problem/opportunity.

Simon Weil

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...