“ a day without Coltrane is like a day without air”
– Bill Cottman.
It is the hard time of year. November is like that. This morning I made a CD compilation for my daughter’s friend, who is 14, beginning drums, and is interested in listening to John Coltrane.
I resisted the urge to make a 5 disc collection, and a 20 page booklet.
Here are the tunes, and the note I wrote.
1) Syeeda’s Song Flute
2) After The Rain
3) My Favorite things.
4) Ruby , My Dear
5) I want to talk about you
6) Giant Steps
8)A Love Supreme ( part one)
I almost put on ” Spiritual” ” Africa” “Love” “Kulu se mama” ” India” and…
What would you put on this CD?
Here is the letter.
Each year I celebrate September 23rd. It is the autumnal equinox, the time where ( where I live in the north) where day and night are the same length. It is a time of balance. And, it is the birthday of John Coltrane.
I have much gratitude for having connected to the music of John Coltrane at an early age. When I am feeling discouraged, disconnected, or at an impasse, I have learned that one way to get out of the funk is to listen to Coltrane.
This is not to deify the man, make him an idol, a god or supernatural being with transcendent powers. At the same time, his music encourages me. You will have to find that out for yourself.
I have picked out about an hour’s music. I hope that you can find a time to put it on the CD player, sit down with maybe a notebook, and not get distracted by the phone or other things. It’s hard these days to make that kind of time! But the rewards are vast.
Some of the songs may hit you right away. Others may take a few listenings. Some, you might never like. That’s ok. The most important thing, I think is to listen deeply.
Maybe one time, try to hear the wholeness of the sound… how Mr. Coltrane’s sound is distinctive- his tone, how long his phrasing when improvising.
Another time, really focus on the drums. On two cuts ( “Syeeda’s song flute “ & “ Giant Steps”), it is Art Taylor. While it is good music, my feeling is that the drummer Elvin Jones ( heard on the rest of the tracks) really had a deep musical connection with Coltrane . He had incredible power. I saw a few You tube videos, where he is completely drenched in sweat, and playing things I can only dream of.
Listen especially to how he does not “play time”… especially in “ My Favorite things” , “ Welcome” and “After the Rain”.
Another time, maybe listen to how the bass supports: with drum and piano.
And of course, it is all about how the group interacts. If you can, close your eyes, and let the music bring pictures to your mind. I have very specific images in my head, but I am not going to share them. You get to have your OWN pictures!
Oh yes. “ Ruby my dear” is a sweet little ballad written by Thelonius Monk, the pianist. He too, is amazing.