Written by Bernie Brink
It was fifty-six years ago this month that John Coltrane released his album-length suite, A Love Supreme. Arguably Coltrane’s greatest album, A Love Supreme was hailed by contemporary critics as one of the most important jazz albums of the decade and has since outsold most of his other recordings. Today, it is widely regarded not only as one of Trane’s most important records, but it consistently ranks among the greatest albums of all time – in any genre.
The album’s spiritual connotations are clear: it is one man’s offering of gratitude to a power greater than himself. However, Coltrane was never explicit about religious connections or spiritual meaning, so there is some ambiguity behind the titles of the individual movements, “Acknowledgement,” “Resolution,” “Pursuance,” and “Psalm.” Whatever their spiritual meanings, they may also be interpreted to have less-obvious, real-world significance in how they serve as a kind of short-hand for Coltrane’s spiritual journey of the preceding decade.
In 1957, after years of drug use and battling addiction, Coltrane finally had to “acknowledge” the severity and root of his problem when he was fired from the Miles Davis Quintet. On the heels of that event, he “resolved” to dedicate his life to music and began recording prolifically in the aftermath of that event, before “pursuing” his own sound and ideas with albums like Giant Steps and his classic quartet. The “Psalm” is both the closing of the suite and serves as a parable for his arrival at a certain spiritual state.