Updated: Nov 17, 2020
Have you ever felt challenged in life and decided to put on music for a spiritual uplift? If so, you’re not the only one. I know I do. The pandemic, the theatrics surrounding the presidential election, and the everyday bumps in the road of life can leave one in a temporary funk. Sometimes we need more than a positive affirmation. In such instances, music can be the one thing that brightens our mood and ultimately transforms our perspective. As Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet, notes, “Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life, bringing peace, abolishing strife.”
I thought about my deceased father this past Veterans Day. I was looking at a photo of him and a few of his Army buddies sitting at a table in a Korean bar. But it wasn’t only the picture conjuring my memories of him. I poignantly recall how he would frequently listen to his vinyl jazz albums. (Some of you remember vinyl albums … if not, just google it.) I believe these albums had a significant impact on my father’s life. I sensed that listening to jazz gave him peace and comfort when he went through challenging times.
My father told me his favorite jazz musician was the saxophonist Charlie “Yardbird” Parker (a.k.a. “Bird”). Dad was an avid fan. He would go listen to Bird whenever he had a gig within driving distance. My dad lived in New York. If Bird played in Philadelphia, he was there. At a Boston jazz club, my dad had a front-row seat. Upstate New York, or anywhere in between, he was in the mix. I guess you could say he was an original Charlie Parker groupie. Yardbird was a legend and is considered a genius by jazz buffs and accomplished musicians in their own right.
There is another person Charlie Parker made a profound impression on and who became a jazz legend - saxophonist John Coltrane. Musicians across genres and eras view Coltrane as an almost godlike figure. In fact, there is an album that John Coltrane scored and played that Carlos Santana (the pioneer of the fusion of rock n’ roll and Latin American jazz) described as something beyond the realm of our three-dimensional existence. It was said that the album represented a “vortex of possibilities." That acclaimed album is “A Love Supreme."
I listen to “A Love Supreme” often. I play it more during these unprecedented times. I cannot explain it in words, but the sound of “A Love Supreme” reinforces my faith in the human spirit and its positive possibilities. The album, a four-part suite, encapsulates everything that John Coltrane was during his life. He was a profoundly spiritual man. During his life, he rose to great heights, fell to the lowest depths, and then rose again. “A Love Supreme” is a jazz masterpiece that contains all of John Coltrane’s mysticism and the totality of his consciousness. The fact that Coltrane dared to speak to “The Presence” through jazz reflects a conviction and singularity of his spiritual and musical vision.
Jazz has never been the most popular musical art form. It is not readily understood or appreciated by many who listen to it for the first time. However, anyone who resonates with Coltrane’s work, and particularly his “A Love Supreme” album, discovers music that comes from “another place” and touches the spirit within. It is as if Coltrane downloaded “music from the spheres” that represents a place the soul longs to be.
John Coltrane intended to touch the spiritual essence of everyone. He attempted to incorporate sounds from cultures across the planet in his music. He did so in hope of bringing people together in a unified spiritual consciousness. The final tour Coltrane took in his lifetime was through the country of Japan. The last city was Nagasaki, a place where one of the atomic bombs was dropped near the end of World War II. Coltrane said he went to Nagasaki to help lift the spirits of its people, and all of Japan, who were still suffering the devastating effects of the war. Coltrane wanted to spread the message of peace.
John Coltrane passed away at the young age of forty. Yet, he packed more in his lifetime than most do in twice that time. I thank my Dad for introducing me to jazz. I appreciate John Coltrane and am grateful for his music. For me and for many others, “A Love Supreme” lifts our spirits to see the possibilities in these challenging times.
Peace and Blessings,
Link below to “A Love Supreme” by John Coltrane