Recent listening, current

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

98. John Coltrane / Interstellar Space (1974)

This was actually recorded in 1967, but not released by Impulse! until '74, almost a decade after Coltrane's death. It's famously dense, but not impenetrable. Throughout the album, Coltrane demonstrates a litany of technical ideas by running through scales, stacking chords, and changing meters in snatches of modal improvisation. It is very experimental and obviously one of the more inaccessible works in the Coltrane canon. Interstellar Space was recorded shortly after the session that produced Stellar Regions, so many of these pieces share themes. "Saturn" is the longest piece, also the only one to lack bells in the intro. Some people latch onto "Venus" which is the closest thing to a conventional melody on the record. Rashied Ali plays like a mystic, and I often find myself listening to him more than Coltrane, whose explorations are searching but also noisy and make the ear weary. Ali's rhythms seem to accommodate any of Coltrane's fancies, or rather Coltrane is free to step in and out of them when it suits he is doing. This is huge music for 1967 that has been hotly debated, put down, or academically dissected ad nausea ever since. I'm happy that the package was expanded on CD to include the similarly minded "Leo" and "Jupiter Variation." 2013 has a lot more context for this type of musical activity than there was in 1967, and it's found a happy home with hundreds of people. That's the crime of being ahead of your time, that it takes everyone else that much lonegr to catch up. Gregg Bendian chose this album to recreate with Nels Cline (Interstellar Space Revisited), describing it in the liner as his love letter to free jazz drumming. In that regard, I can't think of a finer template. Listen to both, see where it takes you.

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