28 Songs that Changed My Life: John Coltrane, “A Love Supreme” (2 of 28)

Prior to my journey into jazz beginning (which largely started with Miles Davis and the legendary Kind of Blue), all I knew of John Coltrane was a fleeting reference in a U2 song. I assumed their reference to A Love Supreme was because it was some important or influential work, but I was young and not nearly as musically adventurous as I’d become, so I did as I often did and didn’t think much about it.

Then jazz happened to me. I discovered how great escape it was. How it could put me at ease and transport me somewhere else. It began to influence my own freeform, meandering music. I’d first heard Coltrane on Davis’ classic records of the mid-to-late 1950s and it made me seek out his solo work, especially the way his solo roars in on the otherwise quiet “So What.” The record that Bono had referenced many years prior seemed like a good place to start.

And it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Coltrane’s late period work is best defined by its raw, free expression. It’s honest in the way not much music is, like something pulled from his soul and thrown out onto the canvas without much concern for anything other than it feeling right. It’s a masterful body of work, inspirational to me for that exact reason. It’s often loud and brash. Despite the players’ high skill level, it’s also imperfect. It can be difficult. Abrasive. Ugly and noisy. It can also be gentle. But most of all, it’s true.

A Love Supreme, arguably the first in his series of more adventurous records, is also widely hailed as the best of Coltrane’s experimental work, in part because it’s also more approachable than what came later. For me, the important thing is that it was my first. It opened the door to sounds I’d never dreamed of hearing … or making. It was and remains a must-listen for anyone who likes to hear the places music can go.

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