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Bebop Spoken There

Lakecia Benjamin: "From my early days with Clark Terry, he told me 'they see you before they hear you'... I'm just not from that school of thought where I'm gonna wear my jeans and T-shirt on stage and that's going to be respectable." - (Jazzwise, February 2023)

The Things They Say!

Hudson Music: Lance's "Bebop Spoken Here" is one of the heaviest and most influential jazz blogs in the UK.

Rupert Burley (Dynamic Agency): "BSH just goes from strength to strength".

'606' Club: "A toast to Lance Liddle of the terrific jazz blog 'Bebop Spoken Here'"

The Strictly Smokin' Big Band included Be Bop Spoken Here (sic) in their 5 Favourite Jazz Blogs.

Ann Braithwaite (Braithwaite & Katz Communications) You’re the BEST!

Holly Cooper, Mouthpiece Music: "Lance writes pull quotes like no one else!"


15056 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 15 years ago. 75 of them this year alone and, so far, 75 this month (Jan. 25).

From This Moment On ...


Sat 28: Tyneside Improvisers Workshop @ Ye Olde Cross, Ryton. 2:00-4:00pm. All welcome.
Sat 28: Secular Sounds in a Sacred Place @ Holy Cross Church, Ryton. 4:30-7:00pm. £10.00. Continuous performance featuring: Christian Alderson, Faye MacCalman, Sally Pilkington, John Pope. Event preceded by a Tyneside Improvisers Workshop (2:00pm, see above).
Sat 28: Entartete Musik @ The Globe, Newcastle. 7:30pm. A Brundibár Arts Festival event.

Sun 29: Vieux Carré Hot 4 @ Spanish City, Whitley Bay. 12 noon.

Sat 28: Revolutionaires @ Brandling Villa, South Gosforth, Newcastle. 9:00pm. Rhythm & blues band.

Sun 29: Musicians Unlimited @ Park Inn, Hartlepool. 1:00pm.
Sun 29: 4B @ The Exchange, North Shields. 3:00pm.
Sun 29: Revolutionaires @ Greens, Low Row, Sunderland. 6:00pm. Rhythm & blues band with a horn section (inc. Pete Tanton).
Sun 29: Hypnotic Brass Band @ Cluny, Newcastle. 7:00pm (doors). £20.00.
Sun 29: Jam No.12 @ Fabio's, Saddler St., Durham. 8:00pm. Free. Durham University Jazz Society jam session. All welcome (students & non-students).
Sun 29: Origin @ The Globe, Newcastle. 8:00pm.

Mon 30: Harmony Brass @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.

Tue 31: ???


Wed 01: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.
Wed 01: Darlington Big Band @ Darlington & Simpson Rolling Mills Social Club, Darlington. 7:00pm. Rehearsal session (open to the public).
Wed 01: 4B @ The Exchange, North Shields. 7:00pm.
Wed 01: Take it to the Bridge @ The Globe, Newcastle. 7:30pm.
Wed 01: Moonlight Serenade Orchestra UK: Glenn Miller & Big Band Spectacular @ Darlington Hippodrome. 7:30pm.

Thu 02: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ The Holystone, Whitley Road, North Tyneside. 1:00pm. Free.
Thu 02: Gateshead Jazz Appreciation Society @ Gateshead Central Library. 2:30-4:30pm. £1.00. All welcome.
Thu 02: Paul Skerritt Duo @ Tomahawk Steakhouse, High St., Yarm. 8:00pm.
Thu 02: Tees Hot Club @ Dorman's Club, Middlesbrough. 9:00pm.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Album review: John Coltrane – A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle

John Coltrane; (tenor sax, percussion); McCoy Tyner (piano); Jimmy Garrison (bass); Elvin Jones (drums); Pharoah Sanders (tenor sax, percussion); Carlos Ward (alto sax); Donald Rafael Garrett (bass).

I was driving back from the Nikki Iles gig at the Sage, listening to the recently released Charles Mingus live album when one of the saxophonists quoted the 4 note riff from A Love Supreme in his solo. When the disc finished I flicked to Jazz FM and the second or third track they played was Will Downing’s vocal version of the same tune. ‘Blimey,’ I thought, ’A Love Supreme is all around us.’

It is hard to separate this version of the famous jazz suite from the legend that attached to the original recording. Asked by the record company to record something more commercial to match the sales of My Favorite Things Coltrane took his group to the famous Van Gelder Studios in Inglewood, New Jersey and came up with a response to his times instead. Something totally uncommercial that would defy radio play and become one of the biggest sellers in jazz history. It was recorded in December 1964 and first released the following month. Until recently it was believed that it had only been played live once, at the Antibes Jazz Festival in July 1965. That concert was widely available, though not officially released until 2002 as part of A Love Supreme: Deluxe Edition. The Seattle recording was made on October 2, 1965 and, until very recently, it had been a well-kept secret; not only was there no available recording, no one connected with the performance spoke of it or wrote about it.

This latest recording also has to be set in the context of Coltrane’s development in 1965. A Love Supreme came out early in a year that would see a gradual progression further into the avant-garde with studio albums such as Ascension, Kule Se Mama, Meditations and Om, and live albums One Up, One Down, John Coltrane Quartet Plays and Live in Seattle with Pharoah Sanders all being recorded that year, although most would not be released until after Coltrane’s death in 1967. Indeed, Live in Seattle, Om and this newest version of A Love Supreme were recorded on consecutive days. This phenomenal work rate and refusal to rest on his laurels are the defining characteristics of this great ‘Late Period’ in Coltrane’s life and this new recording is the last flourish of the great quartet, albeit in an augmented form.

Coltrane had experimented with additional musicians during the recording of the studio album and both the Deluxe Edition and The Complete Masters (which contains every burp, fart and whistle recorded for the album) include Art Davis on bass and Archie Shepp on tenor sax. Ascension, recorded in June 1965,  would take this further and would include the quartet plus seven other musicians including Sanders.

To compare the live performances, I dug out the recording of A Love Supreme from Antibes. It is 48 minutes long whilst the Seattle recording clocks in at 75 minutes, a continuous piece with the Interludes (see below - the studio recording is 33 minutes long). The Antibes recording has space and, even on the bootleg version I have on the ‘Giants of Jazz’ label (it wasn’t released, it escaped), the separation and the fact that there are only four and not seven musicians means greater clarity. You can hear what the members of the quartet are doing all of the time.

Ashley Kahn’s book A Love Supreme – The Creation of John Coltrane’s Classic Album (ISBN: 1783786051) - includes a nine-page chapter on the Antibes recording but has no mention of the Seattle performance. Interestingly, in his overview of Coltrane’s activity during 1965 Kahn writes ‘Coltrane’s response (with Meditations) leaned more towards the spiritual than the musical as he saw his current efforts as points along the same continuum’. This ‘evolutionary theory’ of Coltrane’s music during 1965 is developed without access to the Seattle recording which would have explained and clarified much. It is the key recording that provides the evidence that Coltrane ‘was determined to honour the past and yet face the future.’ (Kahn, page 179)

This new A Love Supreme reflects Coltrane’s growth during the year and applies the new approach to the familiar material. The other recordings made around the time show huge change on the previous year but for this concert he has put one foot back into the past (which was then only 11 months ago) but the performance is a clear statement of where he was, musically, by the October of 1965.

Despite the presence of three additional musicians, this still sounds like an augmented version of the great quartet rather than a septet. The most distinctive new voice is Carlos Ward’s alto and the additional percussion, apparently played by Coltrane and Sanders, fills out the sound, giving it more urgency whilst the others solo. The four parts of the suite are played in order – Acknowledgement, Resolution, Pursuance, Psalm – but there are also 4 Interludes in the form of bass or drum solos in between the main parts.

A New York Times review (quoted by Kahn) described Ascension as ‘massive and startling’ and that applies to the first listen to Seattle; the performance threatens to overwhelm both the music and the listener. It starts softly with gentle sax and arco bass, tentative piano, delicate percussion. The familiar four note figure comes in after 2 minutes and we’re rolling. More gentle explorations of the theme follow until, after 5 minutes the saxes start to dominate. Jones drumming is heavy and powerful, pounding rhythms and rolls, Tyner thumping ‘Monkishly’ behind, the extra percussion filling in any gaps to create a wall of sound. Ten minutes into Acknowledgement the music is wild and free and has escaped the restraints suggested by the earlier recordings. Resolution comes after Interlude 1, a bass solo, and follows a similar pattern to Acknowledgement with the familiar giving way to the free.

After the fury and protest of the first two parts and then Jones’ muscular heavyweight solo (Interlude 2), Pursuance features McCoy Tyner’s percussive left hand piano bombs behind his own dazzling runs. This is a driving, high-paced performance, faster than the studio version. Long wild sax blowing breaks for Tyner’s solo, which feels like the first opportunity to draw breath since the start of the record. Needless to say, the energy levels soon build, with the drum and bass, and various other shaken percussion forcing Tyner to play more loudly and aggressively whilst he solos. The main theme is implied as the solo comes to its end, is repeated by the sax and Jones rolls the tune down to a halt and we move into Garrison’s solo on Interlude 3.

The closer, Psalm, opens with a call to prayer on the sax over booming drums, waves of cymbals and delicate piano. There are moments of fragility in this tune and great slabs of uncompromising drumming from Jones as if questing for some final truth. It’s a truly beautiful way to close the album.

The Seattle recording is a challenging uncompromising work and one that sets itself against the casual listener. You cannot listen to it whilst driving; it is not dinner party music though it might be a way of getting rid of overstaying guests and unwanted sales calls. For those of us who cannot get enough Coltrane, especially from the later period, this new release is gold, frankincense and myrrh all rolled into one for a Christmas come early. Other Coltrane recordings of A Love Supreme may surface in time showing what more and what else he could do with the source material but, until then, we sit in satisfaction at A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle.

A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle is released on October 22 through all of the usual channels. Dave Sayer

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