A Love Supreme, the brilliant John Coltrane hard bop suite, long the hallmark of avant-garde jazz at its creative peak, has been an inspiration to other artists almost from its inception. There have been imitators, some fine, some not so fine. There have been interpreters, a kind of Love Supreme for dummies at its worst, a creative exploration of the Coltrane aesthetic at its best. There have been creators, those who have taken what Coltrane did and run with it – moved it a step further down the road.
The EP Love Supreme Collective, a collaboration between saxophonist Frank Catalano and ex-Smashing Pumpkins/Zwan/Skysaw drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, belongs to this third category. It also features Percy Jones on bass, Adam Benjamin on keys (on the first three tracks) and guitarist Chris Poland (on the final track). A Love Supreme has become part of the basic jazz vocabulary of every jazz musician with the chops to dream about following in Trane’s giant steps, and what Catalano, Chamberlin and crew do, is take that vocabulary into the new century.
Catalano talks about the importance of Coltrane’s album in helping to lift his spirits after a debilitating auto accident in 2011. As Catalano explains in the liner notes: “I really wanted to make a recording that embodied the passion, spirituality, praise and thanks of A Love Supreme without imitating the music.” Love Supreme Collective is the result and it does the job. There is the passion and thanks, and if the spirituality and praise are not as overtly obvious as they are in Coltrane, they are manifest abstractly in the piece’s classical structure and inventive soundscape.
Adopting the original suite’s four-part structure while expanding each title to develop and differentiate the new suite’s ideas, Love Supreme Collective makes clear it has no interest in mere imitation. Coltrane’s “Acknowledgement” becomes “Acknowledgement of Truth,” and “Resolution” becomes “Resolution of Purpose.” The combined parts three and four “Pursuance/Psalm” become two separate tracks: “Pursuance and Persistence” and “Psalm for John.” But listening to the suite as a whole, one is tempted to think that the structure of the piece almost lends itself to more classical labels – allegro, andante, scherzo, and so on. That sort of label would reinforce the sense of unity in the suite.
Catalano sees Love Supreme Collective as a unified whole, a single piece. So, for example, he doesn’t want it sold piecemeal on iTunes—all or nothing. And somehow this makes sense: to listen to parts would be like listening to one or two movements of Beethoven symphony, and since the same can be said for A Love Supreme itself, all or nothing makes sense.
Love Supreme Collective is not only a fine tribute to a great artist, it is an object lesson on how great art spawns great art.
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