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Tommy James leads quartet in rare performance of John Coltrane’s ‘Love Supreme’

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In the summer or fall of 1964, John Coltrane holed himself away in a hidden part of his home for days to compose one of the greatest jazz suites in history, “A Love Supreme.” When the studio album came out on Impulse! Records in February of the following year, it became the best-selling record in Coltrane’s career to date, and the most influential for countless artists — in and out of jazz — to come. After having performed the pieces at gigs, Coltrane and his quartet (pianist McCoy Tyner, double bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Elvin Jones) went into the famed studio of engineer Rudy Van Gelder on December 9, 1964 to lay tracks. It took them one session to get Coltrane’s spiritual vision right in the four-movement suite: Part 1—Acknowledgement, Part 2—Resolution, Part 3—Pursuance, and Part 4—Psalm.

He would never achieve such musical heights again. His wife Alice said of the spiritual rebirth: “There was an unoccupied area in the house where we hardly ever went…. John would go up there, take little portions of food every now and then, spending his time pondering over the music he heard.” When Coltrane was satisfied with his finished suite, she continued, “It was like Moses coming down from the mountain, it was so beautiful. He walked down and there was that joy, that peace in his face, tranquility. So I said, ‘Tell me everything. We didn’t see you really for four or five days.’ [He said,] ‘This is the first time I have received all of the music for what I want to record, in a suite. This is the first time I have everything, everything ready.’” He poured so much of his life’s blood into that suite, people swore they could hear the viscous tension and release in his horn.

John Coltrane’s only known, captured live performance of the entire suite happened July 26, 1965 at France’s Antibes Jazz Festival. And only 12 minutes made it out of that performance. Over in Honolulu, renowned bassist Dean Taba and his quintet performed that suite at the Ilikai’s Sorrento’s three years ago, to a standing-room ovation. Jason Gay took on the John Coltrane role on tenor sax. Gay and Taba will do it again, with bandleader/pianist Tommy James (Duke Ellington Orchestra) and drummer von Baron (Honolulu Jazz Quartet) in quartet form, at downtown Honolulu’s Mezz 127-Topa Financial Center, December 7, 7 p.m.-9:30 p.m.

Saxophonists Jason Gay and John Coltrane both served in the Navy. The Navy will send Gay to Chicago next, so this show is the last Mezz 127 gig for him in Hawaii.

Arrive early, folks. This one’s gonna be another standing-room-only gig. Call (808) 312-1582 for more info.


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