Recorded at the Bimhuis Jazz Club in Amsterdam, those lucky Dutch, on March 30, 2002, the Branford Marsalis Quartet performed an outstanding rendition of A Love Supreme that was so good it would have made John Coltrane proud. This talented quartet, Marsalis on sax, Joey Calderazzo on piano, Eric Revis on bass and Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums, shows enough reverence and respect to this historic work without getting awed and overwhelmed by it.
Wisely, they don’t play a note-for-note recreation. Instead, they play essential moments from the original as a framework, but it’s on the solos that the musicians truly soar, making the suite their own. Branford makes this apparent right from his opening notes during “Acknowledgement.” The piano, drums and cymbals recreate that lovely sound of a rainy dawn waiting to be pierced by the sunshine of the sax, but Branford doesn’t play Coltrane’s opening. He’s off doing his own thing, playing in the spirit of the piece, but not playing the piece. Then the bass brings it back with that signature phrase: Ba-bum-ba-bum/Ba-bum-ba-bum/A Love Supreme/A Love Supreme.
The visuals on the DVD look great. It was shot on High Definition video and the picture quality is so good that I thought the project was shot film. The director and his camera crew frame their shots well. When someone is soloing, he becomes the camera’s main focus. Many close-ups were shot showcasing the musician’s hands and fingers work, allowing the viewer to see how the musicians play. The audio is available in Dolby 5.1 Surround or PCM 24 bit / 48 kHz Stereo.
The disc contains extras that explore Coltrane and A Love Supreme. A 30-minute interview with Coltrane’s widow Alice provides insights into the man, his music and the album. In another segment, a group of musicians offer their thoughts, including how to play A Love Supreme, the blues’ influence on it and its spiritual aspects.
It is certainly a daunting task to recreate an album by a musician respected in his field, but John Coletrane’s A Love Supreme is one of the most legendary albums by one of the most legendary artists in all of music. This project could very easily have gone off the tracks and turned out horrible, which in fact it did at one time. In the extras, Marsalis talks about how awful the first recording was, ; however, they certainly got it right on this release.
One of the best aspects of this item is that includes a CD of the performance, making the music available for those without portable DVD players. It’s a great package for the price and a feature I hope future music DVDs offer.