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A Love Supreme/The Story of John Coltranes Signature Album' by Ashley Kahn

Ashley Kahn, author of KIND OF BLUE , has written yet another book in tribute to a recording. That recording is A LOVE SUPREME, naturally the title to the book.

The reader need only to look at image on the cover of the book which is also the cover of the album to view Coltrane in a now everlastingly famous photograph. Coltrane believed that this was the best photograph taken of him. It shows his intensity, his fortitude midst the storm of his inner being and impending demise, his drive behind the music.

A Love Supreme was the turning point recording for John Coltrane. Kahn characterizes it as a "Signature Album". I agree with this assessment in a manner of speaking; however, I also believe that Kahn has exploited this album for his own use. It is so patently obvious that the book was timed with the re-release of the heretofore unheard sound recording uncovered from the Van Gelder studios. Yet, it is startlingly clear that Kahns motive has to do with exposing more of whom he has contacted in relation to the book than the musical material itself. It is as if Kahn has no thoughts of his own and uses those of others to mold his process of thinking. He researched yes but in a way that does not come across as research; rather as a means to compile a book not write one.

The presentation of the book simulates a scrapbook which is for some purposes all right but does not contribute to the appreciation of the concept behind the book. A LOVE SUPREME in Coltrane's oeuvre marks a seriously emotional and spiritual undertaking. Kahn's book seems to flatten the undertaking. I do not know what it takes to introduce people to a subject matter that is unknown. Perhaps it is the form of this presentation. Some of the photographs of Coltrane are extremely interesting and downright exquisite. The photographs of the tape boxes and old posters et alia are often illegible. The inserts regarding the history of the movement of the recording from one label to another and the men controlling those labels interrupt the bumpy flow of the text. What carries the most visual impact is the 4-page reproduction of the poem in Coltrane's hand which is printed in the inside covers & flyleafs front and back of the book.

The text is replete with quotations from Coltrane and musicians who in some way related to Coltrane from his wife Alice and his son Ravi. The quotations not only jump out because they are in bold type and separated from the body of the text but are also interwoven within the text. Sometimes I do not know if I am reading Kahn's words or some else's.

The contradiction is that I picked up information from this book in the manner of incoherent sound bytes. And for some the book will be an excellent introduction to A LOVE SUPREME. But it must be remembered that the recording is about John Coltrane and a development within his being not about labels record sales and tinsel.

In the introduction Kahn describes a brief history of assembling the book. He writes about his interaction with Alice Coltrane who reflects Coltrane's spirit so fervently in her persistent quietness delicacy and practice of life. These are Kahn's words: "The tight focus of Mrs. Coltrane's recollection eclipsed all sense of historical context. It wasn"t difficult to understand her tunnel view; millions who listened to and loved the music she described did so with any knowledge of its birth. But I was hoping for details and a broader perspective: the summer of 1964 [when Coltrane recorded A LOVE SUPREME] after all had been a season of consequence."

These words so totally astonished me. They are entirely disrespectful of Mrs. Coltrane and even John Coltrane. They have nothing to do with the music the recording the density of the meditation behind the music the reverence that needs to be paid to the music. How could I even proceed to read the rest of the book? I did it because I was being responsible to my intentions to write about it.'Ashley Kahn, author of KIND OF BLUE, has written yet another book in tribute to a recording. That recording is A LOVE SUPREME, naturally the title to the book.

Additional Info

  • Book Title: A Love Supreme/The Story of John Coltranes Signature Album'
  • Author: Ashley Kahn
  • Publisher: Viking Press
  • Year Published: 2002
  • Book Type:: Biography
  • ISBN: 670031364
  • Rating: Three Stars
  • Number of Pages: 260
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