Like many musicians, I have spent a better part of my life playing my own music, striving for an unimaginable goal - it's not the ends, it's the means. sometimes I get caught up in the politics and bizarre ebb and flow that the artform we call Jazz fuels. If you are involved in improvised music it is almost impossible to avoid the frustrations of this business. Understandably there's lots of sour grapes out there and it's unbecoming to air them in public. But this isn't about that. Let's face it, all of the jazz folk are really in the same boat thinking the same thing - let's keep this thing from sinking! But sometimes I feel like Howard Beals in Network (RIP Sidney Lumet) and I wanna open my window and yell, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!". I will let him do the ranting for me.
I saw this clip last night and I realized a couple of things. First of all, as much as I love the John Coltrane Quartet and each and every member of his band, by this time, they were not able to keep up with their leader. And don't get me wrong, they are playing really well here. It's not just his band. After this, all musicians trying to play jazz were forever going to be revisitng the same material in one way or another. The shear devoutness present in his playing is a message to everyone: It's all over. The music is now in the hands of 'The Universe". How can this be the same guy who honked the blues on 'Castle Rock' for Johnny Hodges or made up Giant Steps? It's beyond everything that came before it.
I was 17 years old when I discovered him and I was convinced Trane's music was a personal message from him to me. I thought I had a responsibility to express this message throughout my life. I know that sounds crazy but I was only 17 and very influenced by what I was hearing. I thought Giant Steps was a fun exercise that JC had to experiment with in order to discover his true potential. By 1965 - only 6 years later - it is asymilated into his ideas but it's only a particle; the bigger picture has eclipsed harmonic exercises and something else is going on. Something beyond what Charlie Parker ever imagined and only 10 years after his death! Bird's efforts didn't fall on deaf ears. His pupil John Coltrane took his innovations and in his own manner he took these ideas to another dimension. I think there is a very clear and simple message here: This is music of the Universe. Even Elvin and McCoy look a little stunned. Now what? Where is he taking us? Coltrane blasted off and he never looked back. Are you ready for this? Sounds to me like Mr Coltrane new his time on this planet was short and after 20 years of messing around he wasn't gonna waste any more of it by playing through exercises, over tin pan alley ballads or even his own famous compositions. Although Naima comes up every so often. He is 38yrs old and he has scerosis of the liver. He's probably already feeling pretty sick but this performance is super human. Is he telling us all to move on? If so, why didn't we?
I wanted to discuss the incredible spiritual and emotional impact from this era of Trane's music. I don't mean to be disrespectful, but when I hear fellow musicians talk about the classic years like 1956-60 I gotta wonder what the hell they are hearing from that period that compares to this? This is my opinion but as much as i enjoy his post bop edge and that development into 'sheets of sound', i think he really found his groove in the early 60's. OK, he wasn't exactly hung out to dry by Sonny Rollins on Tenor Madness but it seems (hindsight is 20/20) that Sonny has more to say at that particular time. As long as Coltrane played music that was an extension of earlier traditions, I don't think anyone would have taken nearly as much notice of him. But he didn't stick to the rules and thankfully he went way beyond what any 'jazz is swing and the blues, without that you don't have jazz' idealist can comprehend. I subscribe to that philosphy too. I love Jazz and the history. I love the artists who sealed the cracks and blew 2nd alto for 30years in some band and was never acknowledged by the media. Jazz is great. Don't get me wrong, I love Jazz.
But this isn't Jazz. It's a shame that creative music hasn't been properly displayed to the public in a manner that would have separated it from its' sister artform of Jazz. I will avoid the word 'market'. Because this is creative music - for the creator - and not an easy sell. We were given a gift. And what a gift he gave us! It is as clear and profound today as it was 45 years ago.