Avant Garde, a Force for Good: at the peak of his popularity, JOHN COLTRANE went for something deeper (Ashley Kahn, Arthur, 2003)

Originally published in Arthur No. 3 (March, 2003)

Avant Garde, a Force for Good

At the peak of his popularity, JOHN COLTRANE went for something deeper.

by Ashley Kahn

Excerpted from A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album by Ashley Kahn. Copyright (c) Ashley Kahn, 2002. Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc. 


Perhaps it was a four-year itch.

Not that John Coltrane planned his career turns with any exactitude, but the timeline of his most creative period does imply a certain regularity: one year bursting with diverse activity and unsettled exploration—1957, 1961—followed by three of relatively focused progress. By that schedule, 1965 promised another creative eruption.

On cue—while the sound of A Love Supreme threaded its way into the cultural tapestry—Coltrane again accelerated his experimental drive in contexts large and small, in the process testing the bonds that held his core group together. Before the year was out, the reign of the Classic Quartet would come to a close, and Coltrane would front a new band and a new sound.

The signs of his future direction were already present in the Love Supreme sessions. Coltrane’s measured key-hopping on “Acknowledgement” presaged a harmonic approach in his playing bordering on—and soon embracing—a passionate atonality. His penchant for chanting would resurface on recordings like “Om”; his love of poetry on the album cover of Kulu Se Mama. His explicitly hymnlike titles became an unbroken theme among the many tracks recorded in 1965—”Dear Lord,” “Welcome,” “The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost”—and their meditative sonority a looser reflection of that on A Love Supreme.

A Love Supreme also left its trace in the extended, suitelike compositions Coltrane brought into the studio throughout 1965. He even chose the title “Suite” for a five-part work with sectional names again suggesting spiritual focus–“Prayer and Meditation: Day,” “Peace and After,” “Affirmation.” The album Meditations (and the later release First Meditations, among the final sessions with the Classic Quartet) furthered Coltrane’s trend to multisectioned constructions presented in continuous performance. Meditations also elicited questions as to whether he was consciously following in his own footsteps. Coltrane’s response leaned more to the spiritual than the musical, as he saw his current efforts as points along the same continuum:

“Once you become aware of this force for unity in life, you can’t ever forget it. It becomes part of everything you do. In that respect, [Meditations] is an extension of A Love Supreme, since my conception of that force keeps changing shape. My goal of meditating on this through music, however, remains the same. And that is to uplift people, as much as I can. To inspire them to realize more and more of their capacities for living meaningful lives.”

As Alice [Coltrane] noted, “From A Love Supreme onward, we were seeing a progression toward higher spiritual realization, higher spiritual development.”

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Arthur No. 35 … still available! $5 cheap! Safe for adults!

Cover by Kevin Hooyman

ARTHUR NO. 35 is still available for $5 from stores and direct from us. Or, read selected articles online, for free…

Contents:

ON THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME SNOCK
Wily folkplayer MICHAEL HURLEY (aka Elwood Snock) has charmed hip audiences for over fifty years now with his timeless surrealist tunes and sweetly weird comics, all the while maintaining a certain ornery, outsider mystique. Longtime Snockhead/Arthur Senior Writer BYRON COLEY investigates this Wild American treasure in an enormous 11,000-word, 8-PAGE feature replete with rare photos, artwork, comics… and a giant color portrait by Liz Devine. Snock attack!

CHEW THE LEAVES, GET IN THE TANK
Inside Baltimore’s T HILL, new kinds of experiments with salvia divinorum are going on. Journalist/photographer Rjyan Kidwell visits Twig Harper, Carly Ptak…and the Wild Shepherdess.

BURIED ALIVE BY THE SUFIS
Swap-O-Rama Rama founder and author WENDY TREMAYNE (The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living) wanted to understand what motivated her life-long anti-consumerism. She found the answer underground. Illustration by Kira Mardikes

GASH, CRASH, ASH
Nobody rides for free. DAVE REEVES on the price motorcyclists pay for being better than you. Illustration by Lale Westvind.

THE BIOPHONIC MAN
Guitarist, composer and analog synthesizer pioneer BERNIE KRAUSE left the recording studio to find that really wild sound. What he discovered was far more profound. Interview by Jay Babcock. Illustrations by Kevin Hooyman.

GIANT STEPS FOR MANKIND
Stewart Voegtlin on JOHN COLTRANE’s startling 1960s ascension from space bebop to universe symphonies. Dual astral/material plane illustration by Beaver.

FLOWERS, LEAVES, ANARCHISM
Matthew Erickson on the J.L. Hudson Ethnobotanical Catalog of Seeds

Plus…

* Arthur’s new regular column “Come On In My Garden” debuts. This issue, Camilla Padgitt-Coles visits Enumclaw’s Norm Fetter at his family’s Pennsylvania mushroom farm. They’re medicinal!

* The Center for Tactical Magic on demons and drones

* New full-page full-color comics: “Forgiveness” by Julia Gfrörer and Part 2 of Will Sweeney’s “Inspector Homunculus” serial.

* And, of course, the “Bull Tongue” exhaustive survey of underground cultural output by your intrepid guides Byron Coley and Thurston Moore…

The last two issues of Arthur are sold out from us. Don’t blow it, bucko. Click here to order this issue now at the Arthur Store. $5 cheap!

DESTINATION OUT: STEWART VOEGTLIN ON JOHN COLTRANE’S UNIVERSE SYMPHONIES (Arthur, 2013)

Originally published in Arthur No. 35 (Aug 2013)…

Artwork by BEAVER. Top: ASTRAL PLANE (L to R): Pharoah Sanders, Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones, John Coltrane, Donald Garrett, McCoy Tyner. Bottom: MATERIAL PLANE (L to R): Sanders, Garrison, Garrett, Jones, Tyner, Coltrane.

GIANT STEPS
by STEWART VOEGTLIN

DISCOGRAPHY, 1965-1967
A Love Supreme Recorded Dec ‘64/released ‘65
The John Coltrane Quartet Plays Recorded Feb 65/May 65/March 65 released ’65
Transition Recorded May/June ‘65 released ‘70
Kulu Sé Mama (+Sanders, Garrett, Butler, Lewis) Recorded June 10-16/65 released ‘67
Ascension Recorded June 28/65 released ‘66
Sun Ship Recorded August ‘65 released ‘71
First Meditations Recorded Sept 2/65 released ‘77
Live in Seattle (+Sanders; Garrett) Recorded Sept 30/65/released ‘71
Om (+Sanders; Brazil) Recorded October ‘65 /released 68
Meditations (+Sanders; Ali) Recorded Nov 65/released 66
Interstellar Space Recorded Feb. ‘67/released ‘74
Expression (Sanders, Ali, Alice Coltrane) Recorded Feb. ‘67 & March ‘67/released ‘67

Forty-eight years ago the classic John Coltrane Quartet—along with tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, and multi-instrumentalist Don Garrett—played a gig at a small Seattle club called the Penthouse. The show—130 minutes, professionally recorded, released later as Live in Seattle—came three months after the release of Coltrane’s monumental Ascension, two months before the leader’s penultimate farewell, Meditations. Standards and originals are played. Ponderous intros are atomized by ecstatic solos. Notes dissolve into noise. Noise dissolves into pure sound. Themes struggle within a framework so volatile it shares more likeness with a riot than music. Whether you choose to believe rumors the players gobbled up LSD before hitting the stage doesn’t change opinion turned fact: this quartet could summon chaos like no other. That night in Seattle, Coltrane & Co. ground away at reality and its tyranny of time until any semblance of form surrendered to the void.

Live in Seattle didn’t arrive at a pivotal moment. It was the pivotal moment. Coltrane had undergone a sort of gale force ideation; let himself go to creativity. He behaved more like a speedfreak archivist at the time than leader of the world’s most cataclysmic quartet. Recorded incessantly. In studio. Remotely. Pecked away at graphic scores. Scribbled down ideas. Gave sparse but impassioned instruction to players en route to studio or gig, establishing structure in the moment, assembling by chance, intuition, power. Live in Seattle was the final push towards the symbolic rebirth Coltrane had begun working towards with A Love Supreme in 1964. It’s Coltrane himself in an almost monastic light, striving for purity, elation, elegance, exaltation. His breath and its vehicle not of this earth, but of something we know not what. A Love Supreme is the undeniably practiced and ceremonial unification of the quartet. Live in Seattle its mindful and unceremonious dissolution. It’s the sound of the classic quartet coming completely apart at its core.

That night in Seattle the rhythm section either bashed away in protest, or stood agitatedly indifferent to Coltrane and Sanders, their horns a screaming phoenix struggling to get off ground with the weight of the universe in its talons. Bassist Jimmy Garrison, pianist McCoy Tyner, and drummer Elvin Jones surely tear through the set. But only Garrison sounds truly sympathetic, willfully adapting to Coltrane’s vision still in transition, shelving simple bass walks in lieu of strumming, plucking, coloring what sounds at times like blood ritual with strange flamenco and orchestral figures. Tyner alternately stomps and sprints up the keys, pointlessly competing with Jones who switches between raucous swing and athletic white noise. Ingredients are there. Forces in opposition. Each player pulling the music into a place he’s more comfortable with. Had it been a rock band it would’ve been salted with operatic whining and ego-oriented arguments that served no true end. All the quartet was doing was shaping its new sound. Crafting aesthetic. Loudly becoming. Here, within Live in Seattle, lies the set of directions for that sound, more cosmogony than loose aggregate of aped trope.

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OUT, NOW, EVERYWHERE

a35cvrstore

ARTHUR NO. 35

Click here to order this issue now at the Arthur Store

Cover by Kevin Hooyman

Contents:

ON THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME SNOCK
Wily folkplayer MICHAEL HURLEY (aka Elwood Snock) has charmed hip audiences for over fifty years now with his timeless surrealist tunes and sweetly weird comics, all the while maintaining a certain ornery, outsider mystique. Longtime Snockhead/Arthur Senior Writer BYRON COLEY investigates this Wild American treasure in an enormous 11,000-word, 8-PAGE feature replete with rare photos, artwork, comics… and a giant color portrait by Liz Devine. Snock attack!

CHEW THE LEAVES, GET IN THE TANK
Inside Baltimore’s T HILL, new kinds of experiments with salvia divinorum are going on. Journalist/photographer Rjyan Kidwell visits Twig Harper, Carly Ptak…and the Wild Shepherdess.

BURIED ALIVE BY THE SUFIS
Swap-O-Rama Rama founder and author WENDY TREMAYNE (The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living) wanted to understand what motivated her life-long anti-consumerism. She found the answer underground. Illustration by Kira Mardikes

GASH, CRASH, ASH
Nobody rides for free. DAVE REEVES on the price motorcyclists pay for being better than you. Illustration by Lale Westvind.

THE BIOPHONIC MAN
Guitarist, composer and analog synthesizer pioneer BERNIE KRAUSE left the recording studio to find that really wild sound. What he discovered was far more profound. Interview by Jay Babcock. Illustrations by Kevin Hooyman.

GIANT STEPS FOR MANKIND
Stewart Voegtlin on JOHN COLTRANE’s startling 1960s ascension from space bebop to universe symphonies. Dual astral/material plane illustration by Beaver.

FLOWERS, LEAVES, ANARCHISM
Matthew Erickson on the J.L. Hudson Ethnobotanical Catalog of Seeds

Plus…

* Arthur’s new regular column “Come On In My Garden” debuts. This issue, Camilla Padgitt-Coles visits Enumclaw’s Norm Fetter at his family’s Pennsylvania mushroom farm. They’re medicinal!

* The Center for Tactical Magic on demons and drones…

* New full-page full-color comics: “Forgiveness” by Julia Gfrörer and Part 2 of Will Sweeney’s “Inspector Homunculus” serial.

* And, of course, the “Bull Tongue” exhaustive survey of underground cultural output by your intrepid guides Byron Coley and Thurston Moore…

The last two issues of Arthu

THIS ONE TOOK A WHILE TO BAKE

a35cvrstore

ARTHUR NO. 35 / AUGUST 2013

Click here to order this issue now at the Arthur Store

Streets: Aug. 19, 2013

Cover by Kevin Hooyman

Contents:

ON THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME SNOCK
Wily folkplayer MICHAEL HURLEY (aka Elwood Snock) has charmed hip audiences for over fifty years now with his timeless surrealist tunes and sweetly weird comics, all the while maintaining a certain ornery, outsider mystique. Longtime Snockhead/Arthur Senior Writer BYRON COLEY investigates this Wild American treasure in an enormous 11,000-word, 8-PAGE feature replete with rare photos, artwork, comics… and a giant color portrait by Liz Devine. Snock attack!

CHEW THE LEAVES, GET IN THE TANK
Inside Baltimore’s T HILL, new kinds of experiments with salvia divinorum are going on. Journalist/photographer Rjyan Kidwell visits Twig Harper, Carly Ptak…and the Wild Shepherdess.

BURIED ALIVE BY THE SUFIS
Swap-O-Rama Rama founder and author WENDY TREMAYNE (The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living) wanted to understand what motivated her life-long anti-consumerism. She found the answer underground. Illustration by Kira Mardikes

GASH, CRASH, ASH
Nobody rides for free. DAVE REEVES on the price motorcyclists pay for being better than you. Illustration by Lale Westvind.

THE BIOPHONIC MAN
Guitarist, composer and analog synthesizer pioneer BERNIE KRAUSE left the recording studio to find that really wild sound. What he discovered was far more profound. Interview by Jay Babcock. Illustrations by Kevin Hooyman.

GIANT STEPS FOR MANKIND
Stewart Voegtlin on JOHN COLTRANE’s startling 1960s ascension from space bebop to universe symphonies. Dual astral/material plane illustration by Beaver.

FLOWERS, LEAVES, ANARCHISM
Matthew Erickson on the J.L. Hudson Ethnobotanical Catalog of Seeds

Plus…

* Arthur’s new regular column “Come On In My Garden” debuts. This issue, Camilla Padgitt-Coles visits Enumclaw’s Norm Fetter at his family’s Pennsylvania mushroom farm. They’re medicinal!

* The Center for Tactical Magic on demons and drones…

* New full-page full-color comics: “Forgiveness” by Julia Gfrörer and Part 2 of Will Sweeney’s “Inspector Homunculus” serial.

* And, of course, the “Bull Tongue” exhaustive survey of underground cultural output by your intrepid guides Byron Coley and Thurston Moore…

The last two issues of Arthur are sold out from us. Don’t blow it, bucko. Click here to order this issue now at the Arthur Store!

Arthur Radio Transmission #20: Disco Sigil w/ Nonhorse

OIL FUTURE HEAT OUTPOOST DOCUMENT 20 STOP

TO TIMES QSQIUARE TOPPLED METAL)))) SANDAL OUTSIDE OVERDOME, SITE INVOCATION OF SCUM HEAT AND NEON SHATTERED AND ABSORBED BY IGNEOUS ASPHALT OF HISTORY

FOR TO STREAM: [audio:http://www.arthurmag.com/magpie/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/ARTHUR-RADIO-20-NONHORSE.mp3%5D

FOR TO DOWNLOAD: Arthur Radio Transmission #20: Disco Sigil w/Nonhorse

PART 1: In which our heroes call upon the dosed horn of John Coltrane, the open time slots of Fela Kuti’s studio, and the hallucinatory mojo of Kathy Acker to remove the barricades for to invoke a dance sigil in service of the psychic liberation of times square: hub of consumption, barometer of culture, shrine of empire. Use Your Feet For The Feat Of The Defeat Of The Demons Feasting On Your Future!

PART 2: In which comrade to the cause Nonhorse finds space amidst his beyondmeremortalmultitaskings to build a roomy nest of codified cassettery from which to deliver a highly prismatic and severely discorporating live tape manipulation set. Abridged here, the fulllll badass 2.5 hour tilthabreakadawn extent can be siphoned from the bountiful tank of the Newtown Radio archives. HEAVY

This week’s playlist…

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There’s a limited supply: Arthur No. 3 (pub’d Feb 2003) aka THE JOE STRUMMER WAKE ISSUE

arthur3cover

We’ve got 50 copies left of Arthur No. 3 (cover date March 2003, pub’d February, 2003). This one’s from the original incarnation (read: best) of Arthur—the pages are gigantic (11×17) and the paper is reasonably high-quality newsprint. Some color, some b/w. We’re selling our remaining stock for $5 each over at the Arthur Store.

Notes on this issue…

Joe Strummer died on December 22, 2002. His death received some notice, of course, but since he’d left us in the period between Thanksgiving and the New Year—when glossy music and culture magazines are basically shut down—real coverage of his passing, and the life that he lived, didn’t happen in the pop culture magazines of record. Big-budget American publications like Rolling Stone, Spin and Blender had already finished their January 2003 issues, so major features couldn’t fit in there without major expense (pulled features, pulped magazines, etc.); and by the time their February 2003 issues rolled around, the news of Joe’s passing would be (to their market-minds) “stale,” and thus to be deserving of only an obligatory page or two. Which is absurd for someone of Joe’s stature, his body of work, and commitment to The Cause.

At Arthur, we decided to pull the cover feature that we had in progress. Working together, with no editorial budget, the budding Arthur gang was able to put together something of substance very quickly, and get it out to the people, for free, in mass quantities (50,000 copies), within weeks of Joe’s passing.

Our wake for Joe Strummer would not have happened without journalist/archivist Kristine McKenna. She had a recent, lengthy (3800 words), and yes, poignant conversation with Joe on tape—a really great conversation, of course (this IS Kristine McKenna, after all) that the LAWeekly had used just a bit from in a feature earlier in the year. Kristine had witnessed The Clash at the top of their game, so she could offer some real historical perspective. And, crucially, Kristine knew that her friend, the L.A. photographer Ann Summa, had a trove of gorgeous photographs of Joe, few of which had ever been published. And Kristine got us permission to reprint a Clash-related page from Slash, the crucial late-’70s underground L.A. magazine. Meanwhile, my old colleague Carter Van Pelt, a reggae enthusiast, offered a new interview about Joe that he conducted with Mikey Dread.

Soon we had reports from all over. People were picking up multiple copies of the magazine and redistributing it. The golden centerfold of Ann Summa photo of Joe (worked on with a great deal of care and attention by Arthur’s brilliant art director, W.T. Nelson) was being torn out of the magazine and posted on record store walls, in dorm rooms, in clubs. There are other strong pieces in this issue—the John Coltrane book excerpt, especially—but it’s Joe’s issue. As it should be.

Here’s how the contents page read:

JOE STRUMMER, 1952-2002

Arthur holds a wake in print for a man who mattered. In addition to stunning photographs by Ann Summa and excerpts of back-in-the-day Clash coverage from Slash magazine, we present reflections on Joe by Kristine McKenna; a lengthy, poignant interview with Joe from 2001 by McKenna; a consideration by Carter Van Pelt of the Clash’s embrace of reggae, featuring insights from Clash collaborator Mikey Dread; and a brief on Joe’s legacy: a forest in the Isle of Skye.

At the height of both his popularity and his artistic powers, JOHN COLTRANE went for something deeper. An exclusive, chapter-length excerpt from A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album by Ashley Kahn.

The intrepid Gabe Soria connects with every single member of THE POLYPHONIC SPREE, the cheeriest 24-person pop symphony on the planet, in addition to chatting at length with Spree leader Tim DeLaughter about the “c” word, the Spree’s next move, and the sadness that remains. Portrait by Paul Pope.

“ASK JOHN LURIE”: He may be in self-described “hermit mode” but this longtime Lounge Lizard is eager to lend a helping hand to his fellow man. And woman too.

In the work of artist SHIRLEY TSE, plastic aspires to more than Pop. Mimi Zeiger reports.

COMICS by Sammy Harkham, Jordan Crane, Johnny Ryan, Sam Henderson, Marc Bell and Ron Rege Jr.

Byron Coley & Thurston Moore review underground music, film and texts.

And more more more

Arthur No. 3 is available from the Arthur Store.

Sept. 23 Autonomedia Jubilee Saint – VICTORIA WOODHULL


SEPTEMBER 23 — VICTORIA WOODHULL
Proponent of Free Love. Spiritualist leader.
First woman to run for U.S. presidency (with Frederick Douglass).
Member of the First International (until expelled by Marx).

ALSO ON SEPTEMBER 23 IN HISTORY…
1838 — Communist, spiritualist Victoria Claflin Woodhull born, Homer, Ohio.
1926 — Jazz great John Coltrane born, Hamlet, North Carolina.
1952 — U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon gives “Checkers” speech on TV.
1973 — Chilean poet and communist cultural hero Pablo Neruda dies, Santiago.
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yanU4dFC7lU