Many have tried to describe Coltrane's music.It has been turned inside-out, intellectualised, spiritualised, heckled (initially), mystified (later), dissimulated into its minute note, sequence, or composional structure. Interestingly, you can see a difference in describing Coltrane between those who experienced him performing live and those who have had to settle with the recordings. Lately, when reading about Coltrane, a basic difference in how he is perceived, his goals or his intentions, can be felt between those who saw him live and those who only heard him on recording. This is probably due to the fact that to those who saw him in live performance, it came easier to dig him, to take him in, by feeling. And I strongly believe that the music of Coltrane basically builds on feeling. It is interesting to see how the theorists of music can describe his songs and solos like something as neatly built up as a work by Beethoven or Stravinsky. It can be shown theoretically that his tunes -and solos- were perfect all through, and this is somehow the whole point by those belonging to the latter group. The others, who saw him play live, have another bottom view: a superior mastery in his instruments plus a musical genius, together with his thorough education in the "class of jazz" (the long way via anonymous ball-room gigs in big bands and over to the bop in the fifties) enabled him to perfect his talent and 'in statu nascendu' create a truly masterful music. Mysticism unneeded, theories let be, listening and feeling does it all. The suite A Love Supreme has been dissected to pieces. It is a great piece of music, and it is wonderful that it is being increasingly appreciated. Trane wrote it as an experiment, so he could examine step by step how far he could take his music within the boundaries of his talents. A Love Supreme was itself one a step on this very road. Almost every new Trane album was part of the path towards the summit: My Favorite Things, Plays The Blues, Coltrane, Africa/Brass, and so on. Every new record was like a rocket stage boosting. More and more (into Interstellar Space...) The music of a master becomes surprisingly less intellectual as time as he develops. Those with Trane's creativity often work intuitively. And their works are best appreciated if one tries to perceive them in the same way.
I arrived in New York early 1962, passing through to the Swedish immigrant areas of Minnesota. The jazz-clubs were my obvious target at a two-day stopover in N.Y.C., which was then even more "New York-ish" than today. The theatre district around Times Square and Broadway didn't at all resemble the EU-parliament in Brussels, the Empire State was still the tallest building in the world, and Harlem was still felt as a menace to the whites. And Birdland was "The Jazz-Corner Of The World," a temple erected to Charlie Parker some ten years before. Now, however, other gods reigned. My first night coincided with the comeback of Dexter Gordon after extended sickness (drug-related). Dexter was then soon to leave New York and settle, via Paris, in Copenhagen, which you all probably know. His gig was split with the Monday night jam session. Musicians were going and coming. Had I been more attentive, perhaps I could by now have become even better at dropping names. Sonny Stitt was there, for one. The second night presented the progressive music of the Charlie Mingus Workshop, mixed with the mainstream-jazz of Kai Winding. At 'The Half-Note,' Billy Eckstine could be heard; the Village Vanguard presented Basie, the Five Spot had Jimmy Smith, who was so big in The Big Apple then. And The Metropole, a little shack at Times Square featured Woody Herman.