A brief look at his years at Impulse Records, where he made some of his most iconic work.
“I’ve found you’ve got to look back at the old things and see them in a new light.” – John Coltrane
What do you do when you have just played on two of the most lauded albums in history, ride a wave of several new movements and even sell records in a way Jazz artists had not done since the 1930’s? You start all over again with fresh ideas and new concepts, furthering your development as an artist with something to say even if the critics who initially supported you had no clue what you were trying to prove.
This is what you do, of course, if you’re John Coltrane, who left a brief but highly influential period with top selling Jazz titles for Atlantic Records and moved to a newly formed label specializing in nothing but Jazz, Impulse Records, in 1961. Just before recording Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue as a sideman and Giant Steps on Atlantic with his own band, the man known as John William Coltrane had recently rid himself of two major problems in his life, heroin and alcohol. He found himself not just playing better than he ever had by 1959, but decided to once again and go for broke by completely re-inventing his style to include Free Jazz and Avant-Garde elements, truly a risk for any musician, and a much greater risk in what was a cool but niche music genre.
John Coltrane, New York City, 1965 Photo by Lee Friedlander.
Coltrane was given not just creative control by the label, he also recorded albums that went against the current trends as well, including ballads, love songs and releasing an almost retro-sounding LP with Duke Ellington. According to statements made by him, he wished to have a diverse catalog, not just a bunch of releases people believed they should pigeon-hole him in. It was during this time at Impulse that Coltrane was slowly becoming more aligned to his seemingly diverse spiritual beliefs and recorded yet another landmark album, A Love Supreme, which was released in 1965 and was selling three times his normal quota per album at that time. It is considered by many critics to be his masterwork
We will never know what new thing Coltrane would have planned before the end of the 1960’s. He died in the fall of 1967 of liver cancer. He was just 40 years old, and his death came as a shock to many, as he didn’t publicly disclose his condition, even to many of his closest friends, or appear in public in a state of physical distress.
Our tracks this week: Title, Year, Source
1. Acknowledgement, recorded 1964/released 1965, A Love Supreme
2. They Say It's Wonderful, 1963, John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman
3. Offering (Live), recorded 1967/released 2014, Offering: Live At Temple University
4. Afro-Blue (live), recorded 1965/released 2005, Live at the Half Note: One Down, One Up
5. All Or Nothing At All, recorded 1961 and 1962/released 1963, Ballads
6. Alabama, 1963, Live At Birdland
7. Kulu Se Mama, recorded 1965/released 1967, Kulu Se Mama
Love to you all.
Ben “Bear” Brown Jr., owner
Ace of Spades PDX
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