JOHN COLTRANE — Ascension (review)

JOHN COLTRANE — Ascension album cover Album · 1965 · Avant-Garde Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
More than anything else, music for me is all about expression, the artist being able to present listeners with music for music's sake. More often than not, artists are bound by traditional structures, meter, melody, that kind of thing. Free jazz in general, and this recording specifically, really worked its way around those conventional restrictions and let the artist and the music do the talking.

This is an album which is full of life, full of spontaneity and (big surprise) a large amount of freedom on the part of the musicians. As the liner notes state, Marion Brown said that the sessions "had that kind of thing in them that makes people scream." For me, it's easy to see why, because the recordings seem to have some life of their own which is still a rare thing after all these years. Coltrane assembled a top notch lineup for this recording, with excellent performances from everyone involved. It's impossible for me to point out a particular high point as far as the soloing goes, because they all bring something unique to the table.

This album is not tame. It is not music you would want to play on a first date (or second, or third, basically it's not an album for lovers). It will almost definitely not reveal itself to you after only a few listens, but rather it will test your patience and resilience to the squonking and squealing which is often associated with free jazz. It's definitely not a great starting point for the genre either, but once you've gotten to know free jazz a bit then this one is an absolutely essential addition to your collection. The album is really something special, and based on my still expanding viewpoint of jazz, it's easily one of the masterpieces among masterpieces, one of the best of the best. No hesitation from me in giving this one five stars, it will blow your mind.

Note: as for the two versions which are on the CD I have, I can't say I really prefer one above the other. The first one presented (Version II) is Coltrane's preferred version of the work, but I'm just about equally pleased with both.
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