September 23, 2011 Playlist

John William Coltrane (1926-1967)
John Coltrane's 85th Birthday
"Meditations" by John Coltrane (1965)
John Coltrane  "Meditations"  1965 (USA)
Today would have been John Coltrane's 85th birthday, so this week we're saluting one of the most important figures from the world of jazz.  Coltrane first rose to fame when Miles Davis tapped him to play sax in his group around 1955, and by 1960 he had left Miles to lead his own groups exclusively until his untimely death in 1967.  As an instrumentalist, Coltrane's modal "sheets of sound" style made him the most influential saxophonist since the revolutionary Charlie Parker.  As a composer, his impact is equally great though harder to explain quickly.  In the late 1950's he developed a system of modulating tonalities (the "Coltrane changes") which greatly influenced the jazz world, but it was after he began to explore "free" jazz starting around 1964 that Coltrane became a truly radical figure whose influence transcended jazz.  Coltrane's free jazz was not rooted in avant-garde "art music", but rather was driven by his own personal spiritual quest.  As such it has some similarity to the "space ritual" of Sun Ra and his Arkestra, though without creating his own new mythology.  For Coltrane was intrigued by ALL world religions -- his late period works were usually given titles relating to Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim concepts (in recent years he has even been canonized as a saint by the African Orthodox Church).  Meditations is one of Trane's most radically "free" recordings, featuring an expanded group with two drummers and Pharoah Sanders joining Coltrane as a second horn player.  His other notable epic works from this era include the classic A Love Supreme, the big band freakout Ascension, and an oriental acid trip called Om.  After John's death, his widow Alice Coltrane (who played piano in her husband's band) continued and expanded on this concept of "music as a spiritual quest."
Here's Coltrane and his classic quartet playing the opening section of "A Love Supreme", and a 1965 version of their earlier hit "My Favorite Things"which shows the freer direction Trane was going in by that time (and the band is playing so hard they are literally giving off steam!)  Coltrane was a significant influence on 1960's rock as well, as demonstrated by The Byrds hit "Eight Miles High" (with Roger McGuinn playing Coltrane-like leads on 12-string guitar),  and The Doors breakthrough "Light My Fire" (which includes a lengthy modal jam which was probably inspired by the Coltrane version of "My Favorite Things").
(N) = New Release
Artist Song Album Year (label) Country
Traffic Utterly Simple Mr. Fantasy 1968 UK
A Tribe Called Quest Bonita Applebum People's Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm 1990 USA
Genesis I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) Selling England By The Pound 1973 UK
Mighty Baby Egyptian Tomb Mighty Baby 1970 UK
Kalacakra Raga No. 1 Crawling To Lhasa 1972 Germany
GLW With You Without Sessions (N) 2011 (provided by artist) UK
White Hills We Will Rise White Hills (N) 2010 (Thrill Jockey) USA
Jackie-O Motherfucker Raga Joining Earth Sound System (N) 2011 (Fire) USA
Grails I Led Three Lives Deep Politics (N) 2011 (Temporary Residence) USA
Annapurna Illusion Dizzy Vultures Life Is An Illusion (N) 2011 (Rocket) France
Residual Echoes MFIGBSP Ride MFIGBSP 2005 USA
The Stooges Fun House Fun House 1970 USA
The Byrds Eight Miles High Fifth Dimension 1966 USA
MC5 Looking At You A-side 7" single 1968 USA
The Doors Light My Fire The Doors 1967 USA
Jefferson Airplane rejoyce After Bathing At Baxter's 1967 USA
John Coltrane The Father The Son And The Holy Ghost / Compassion Meditations
1965 USA
John Coltrane The Night Has A Thousand Eyes Coltrane's Sound rec. 1960, rel. 1964 USA
Miles Davis (with John Coltrane) All Blues Kind Of Blue 1959 USA
Archie Shepp Cousin Mary (John Coltrane) Four For Trane 1964 USA
Eric Dolphy Gazzelloni Out To Lunch 1964 USA
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