JOHN COLTRANE — Meditations

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JOHN COLTRANE - Meditations cover
2.92 | 15 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 1966


A1 The Father And The Son And The Holy Ghost
A2 Compassion
B1 Love
B2 Consequences
B3 Serenity

Total Time: 40:35


John Coltrane – tenor saxophone and percussion
Rashied Ali – drums
Jimmy Garrison – double bass
Elvin Jones – drums
Pharoah Sanders – tenor saxophone
McCoy Tyner – piano

About this release

Impulse! – AS-9110 (US)

Recorded: November 23, 1965, Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs

Thanks to Abraxas, snobb for the updates


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If you read the title, Meditations, then you’re aware about Coltrane's albums prior to this, you also know about Pharoah Sanders' solo albums, and finally you read: "Meditations is an extension of A Love Supreme", you go wild and think you'll listen to one of the greatest 'spritual' jazz albums ever. This is what I imagined: John and Sanders unite to play an anthemic tenor line full of strength and spiritual powder, McCoy gently enters and so does Garrison. Then the double rhythm section create an awesome African tribal rhythm, and the music evolves from there, with soulblowing solos from both sax men.

Sadly, no, it's nothing like that. There's nothing meditative on this album. Coltrane barely plays memorable and original melodies and solos. Sanders is just showing one part of himself, his chaotic side. Concerning this being labelled " extension of A Love Supreme", well, only the names of the compositions follows the idea of spiritual elevation and peace.

The music? Ah, it saddens me, slightly. I really don't know what John had in his mind. I mean, I sometimes fear it was the LSD or it was the damn critics that wanted him to fully embrace the "new thing" (free jazz) just for racial/social purposes, that made Trane make such dark and noisy music and yet he went and titled them like 'Compassion', 'Om', 'Love', etc.

I don't completely detest free jazz, I even find the idea pretty fascinating, like Coleman's music. But to create such turmoil, it seems pure rage without a sense of control, just free. And probably that's great for some, I've read that people liked every time John went into even nosier grounds, but I actually doubt he, the artist, was satisfied with that. I don't know why he had so much trouble finding satisfaction in his music, he was a virtuoso at his instrument and as a composer he was great, he also had great ideas, that of fusing Eastern and African music to his jazz, but he never actually did it. He added another drummer, Rashied Ali, alongside Elvin (more than a capable drummer), maybe to have a more percussive backup, but that was not it, it generated a wall of sound. McCoy sounds rather forced in making dissonant sounds, since his soloing is still his usual powerful post-bop one. Garrison could have perfectly not played at all, and we wouldn't notice any difference.

And although John and Pharoah occasionally pick-up some bells and eastern percussive instruments, it has a superficial meaning; it seems that they play them once they got bored of tearing their saxes off.

Mind you, this is not like Om which is: "1, 2, 3, NOISEEEEEEEE stop". Trane did have some ideas on his mind for this album, while restraint is sparse, on each composition you can figure out a sax melody which, however, evolves into cacophony. 'Compassion', for example, has its restrained moments, but it just seems like his older modal tunes with a busier rhythm section, while Tyner sounds so damn nervous he's hitting all the wrong chords.

'Love' and 'Serenity' seem the only tunes which are fairly listenable, with some noteworthy tenor line, although the band is there disturbing rather beautiful melodies.

I'll be sincere, this is not nice music. And I agree, not every music one listens to has to be beautiful, finely polished, etc, but I think Trane at this moment of his life, can be compared to a sort-of death metal band or something alike, it's the artist's deepest and most dark emotions set loose without a minimum conscience of what it sounds.

What really disappointed me was the idea that this album is titled Meditations and all that that I said at the beginning. Yes, now I'll state it: I do think that he made this to prove critics that he belonged to the "new thing", otherwise he could have released First Meditations instead, which is the quartet version of this album, and it's actually what I was expecting this to be.

Fan of free jazz? Get this, you'll hear tenor god, Coltrane, blowing hard, while tenor half-god, Sanders, squeaking like no one else. You'll also hear Rashied Ali and Elvin Jones fight for the drum place. Tyner? He's creating an obscure atmosphere. Garrison? Not there.

If you're not a fan of free jazz, or don't really want to hear much noise from Trane, get "First Meditations, the real extension of A Love Supreme". I’ll just add that it saddens me that Pharoah could never join forces with his master, Coltrane, to make something truly worthy.

Members reviews

Sean Trane
What a difference it makes between the official Meditations and the pre-meditations (the posthumous release called First Meditations). The present album is probably the hinge between the two Coltrane quartet, as Elvin, Jimmy and McCoy are still there, but we’re also hearing from Pharoah Sanders and Rashied Ali, both kingpins of Trane’s second quartet. As a matter of fact, only Alice is missing. With Elvin and Pharoah on the right channel, Rashied and Trane are busy on the left channel, Meditations is generally seen as the next major album after ALS, and the annunciator or precursory of the Ascension to come, even if maybe the latter might have come prior to the present, but both are sonically close enough, if it wasn’t for two shorter tracks that bring a sense of normalcy on the present.

Opening on the downright dissonant free-jazz of Father And Son, it slowly cools down to a more audible second part (the tracks segue into each other) of the vinyl side called Compassion (for our ears maybe, John??). Opening the flipside with sleepy and standardy Love but the aural respite is rather short (well 8-mins), since the ensuing (drastic) Consequences is merciless on your eardrums, with dissonance that could be taken from Ascension. At the 2/3 mark, Tyner manages to bring back some welcome normalcy, though. The album closes on the short Serenity, which is a sonic reference to ALS’s closing statements.

In some ways Meditations is not easier on your sanity than Ascension is, but in its softer moments, it’s definitely more accessible, so if you’re a little afraid to approach the awesome Ascension without some kind of aural preparation, then Meditations is the logical next step after ALS.

Ratings only

  • KK58
  • LovelyZoundz
  • idlero
  • Ryu
  • Anster
  • danielpgz
  • Croteau
  • Drummer
  • darkprinceofjazz
  • richby
  • Tychovski
  • Sleepwalker
  • triceratopsoil

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