In times of crisis we should reflect on the heros and heroines of our lives.
Especially when they are no longer with us.
Like John Coltrane.
I discovered Trane three years after law school and three years into working for a global corporation in downtown San Francisco. I found Trane by working my way back from my discover of McCoy Tyner *Trane’s pianst) on the 1978 album Inner Voices. (I contend, his greatest album.) I soon came to that cathedral of music called the music of John Coltrane. One of the first albums I heard was one of his later albums, his 1964 album, A Love Supreme.
This led to a rediscovery of my love for jazz, a love my father had given me as having a jazz band when he was a student at LSU and playing in New Orleans. I grew up listening to all of the big bands and some jazz greats like Bill Evans and Dave Brubeck on my dad’s large stereo system with McIntosh amps and JBL speakers. My rediscovery of jazz led to me taking up the piano again which I had been playing since I was five or so.
I formed a publishing company called GreatHouse (named after Kentucky relatives) and published Spirit Catcher under GreatHouse publishing. That year, it won Best Biography from the Small Press Association.
Over the years, I listen to my Trane albums that are in the iTunes Library on my MacBook. They occasionally play Trane and Tyner on the Bay Area jazz station I stream all day to my office, KCSM from San Mateo. A few copies of Spirit Catcher sit on my bookshelf near my desk. There’s been around 5,000 copies sold so far and I will still hear from one of the far-flung readers of the book. Not long ago, someone wrote from Paris about the book.
But for the most part, the message of John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner has not had much impact on current culture. In fact, I would venture a guess that few in the millennial generation have heard about Coltrane and fewer still are more than a small bit familiar with his music and philosophy of life.
For that’s what it was with Coltrane and Tyner for me. Acceptance of their music was part of acceptance of the way they saw the world and life. A few critics have given their music its own particular genre of jazz, calling it Spiritual Jazz. It seems to me, this is acutally a pretty good definition for their music.
McCoy Tyner passed away in March of 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic. I wrote a few posts on Midnight Oil about McCoy. Of course they were no where near adequate to express my love and appreciation for McCoy and his music. Like others out there. Those initiated into the genre of jazz titled Spiritual. It was so much more than just music. Yet it showed (to me) that music was a path to the spirit and to goals we have greatly forgotten today.
With the passing of McCoy I did reach out to a few of his relatives and heard back from one. I sent them the posts I wrote on McCoy. His passing brought me back to listening to jazz and playing in on my various digital instruments. Just a few months ago, I brought the Korg Minilogue XD Analouge Synthesizer and the Novation MiniNova up from the studio downstairs.
In the past year, photography, film and writing dominated my creative life. But slowly, the music muse of my life has been returning. I’m starting to record short little pieces like the one above. This was created by laying down an original track with the Korg MiniLougue using the Fanta Bell 51 Pattern, slowed to its slowest tempo and looped over and over. Against this loop, we play the Novation MiniNova and pattern Bass Is We A000.
The MiniLouge starts with the bells and the bass of the Novation slowly comes into the piece, phrasing the chanting of the album A Love Supreme. These words are repeated over and over and in the piece above, the Novation does this chanting but carries it off in a different direction.
Again, just a short riff to capture something rather than go down somw rabbit hole chasing it.
It’s pretty obvious that Tyner and Trane are “back in the room” of my life.
In times of crisis we should reflect on the heroes and heroines of our life.
But we seldom do.
It seems they are fogotten in times they are needed the most.
Especially in America where it seems to be a defining quality of running towards the future so fast that the past is quickly forgotten. The world would be so much different if more of us would remember and reflect upon the heros and heroines of their lives. America would be so much better if it even considered the performing the act of reflection and remembrance. Of course it doesn’t and moves into the future just like the last lines of Fitgerald’s Gatsby.
The piece above takes its inspiration from the four-coiunt chant “a love supreme” all the way throught the Coltrane suite titled A Love Supreme. The Korg and Novation instruments are tied into a Korg Electribe Sampler and a Zoom C3 Vocal processor using our Audio Technica 3035 mic. All is routed through a Tascam DP-24SD Portastudio. Speakers are KRK Rokit Monitors. What you hear is a direct live recording onto a Zoom H6 recorder of that recording on the Tascam.
Most likely, we’ll continue to create these short little attempts at suggesting larger musical, literature or film projects.
Yet, each of these short pieces (like the one above) seem able to exist pretty independently of almost any outside structure or genre of music that might attempt to define them. Who knows what will happen with the above 60 seconds of sound.
Will I follow up on it? Will someone else follow up on it?
Both seem relevant questions.
It’s called “A Piece of Trane.” Somehow the Kord and MiniNova came together to create this sound. Somewhat in the spirit of Bartok’s experiments in his Mikrocosmos composition. Just phrases. Short expressions. Not finished statements of stories or narratives. No more than a hint towards something else in the hazy distance.
Might some form of return to that genre called Spiritual Jazz, really a return to the jazz of Coltrane and Tyner, be a remedy for much of the world today?
Everyone looks for answers in a lot of places.
One might first try the music of John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner.
It is not some directive from the world of the pandemic. Rather, a subtle prescription for a new way of looking at the world. And America.
The author’s book Spirit Catcher on Amazon. (I can’t believe Amazon. I had at least five reviews of the book much greater than the rating of one reviewer on the book. The whole reviewing process is of course controlled by those in control. Would it be anything otherwise?) Not a bad price on it if you get the used version. It pissed off a few jazz snobs. But it was never meant to impress anyone. At the most, a type of Hunter Thompson approach to the music of John Coltrane. It was really meant not to be some great expert reflecting back in time on the music of Coltrae. But rather, a real time diary or narrative about discovering the music of John Coltrane. Almost like note to a journal of sort. After landing on Coltrane’s later album and masterpiece A Love Supreme, I vowed to go way back to the beginning of Trane’s recorded musical career and listen to this music in a linear fashion, in the order it was created. Through an incredible record store in Berkeley at the time called Leopolds, I was able to acquire almost the entire Tyner and Coltrane discography. I decided to write a narrative about discovering the music of Coltrane for the first time, in the order he created it. Similar to some embedded reporter/jazz critic, average listener, responding to hearing the music of Trane for the first time as they lived their life. The other things in the background during this time. My book places much culture of time in the background of Trane’s music.