John Coltrane Plays Only Live Performance of A Love Supreme (1965)

John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme came out in 1964, an “album-long hymn of praise,” writes Rolling Stone, “transcendent music perfect for the high point of the civil rights movement” as well as Coltrane’s growing spiritual awakening after kicking his heroin habit. The record amazed critics and jazz fans alike and by 1970, it had sold over half-a-million copies. But lovers of Coltrane would only have only one chance to see him perform the full four-part suite live, and not in any stateside clubs but in Antibes, France on July 26, 1965, where he played two nights with his quartet.

You can see twelve of those miraculous minutes above, consisting of the first two movements of the suite, “Acknowledgement” and “Resolution.” This is a gorgeous performance, capturing what saxophonist David Liebman describes as “an end and a new musical beginning” for Coltrane.

The second evening’s performance, below, begins with “Naima,” on which, Liebman says, “Trane solos combining a striking lyrical approach offset by multi-noted, densely packed runs.” If you’ve ever wondered what Ira Gitler meant in describing Coltrane’s style as “sheets of sound,” these performances will clear up the mystery.

The mid-sixties was a pivotal time for jazz—before the electronic fusion experiments to come, as hard bop and free jazz combined with the dissonance of early 20th century contemporary classical music, which had “permeated jazz for at least a handful of artists.”  Coltrane still spoke the “common language”—the “standard repertoire stemming from the American song book and/or original compositions with similar and predictable harmonic movement,” yet in his case, he “added modality to the mix,” a trick picked up from Miles Davis.

Coltrane sadly died from liver cancer in 1967 at age 40 and did not live to see the strange, surprising turns jazz would take in the decade to come. How his brash, yet enchanting playing would have translated in the 70s is anyone’s guess. Yet, like so many artists who die young and in their prime, he left us with a body of work almost mystical in its intensity and beauty—so much so that his more religious followers made him a saint after his death. Watching these too-brief recordings above, it’s not hard to see why.

The second night’s performances from the Antibes Jazz Festival were issued as a live album in 1988. The first night’s live showcase of A Love Supreme has seen several releases, and if you’re one of those who professes devotion to this amazing piece of work, you’d do well to pick up a copy, if you don’t own one already. “The intensity if the Antibes live performance,” writes Liebman in his 2011 liner notes to the Jazz Icons/Mosaic release of the Coltrane Live at Antibes 1965 DVD, “far exceeds the studio recording” of the album. And that’s saying something.

Related Content:

John Coltrane’s Handwritten Outline for His Masterpiece A Love Supreme

Watch John Coltrane and His Great Quintet Play ‘My Favorite Things’ (1961)

The World According to John Coltrane: His Life & Music Revealed in Heartfelt 1990 Documentary

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Comments (9)
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  • reg e gaines says:

    My father somehow had a copy of LS before Malcolm was assassinated, I do not think it had been released. It was on a constant “loop” in our home in Jersey City, NJ. He was a homicide detective and avid jazz lover who I’m positive was acquainted with Rudy van Gelder. The day Malcolm was murdered I recall my mother saying while LS was playing, “if the men who shot him listened to this song when they woke up, they would have never done this deed.”

  • Rui Xavier says:

    What a great little text!
    I am preparing a film on this piece. Would you be so kind as to send me your mail contact?
    Here’s mine:

    Rui Xavier

  • AdamP says:

    Thanks! I hadn’t seen that first video before.

    The first sentence is bad though, huh. The music was perfect for..his spiritual awakening? I’m sure you meant something, but these are just words thrown thoughtlessly together.

    “How his brash, yet enchanting playing would have translated in the 70s is anyone’s guess.” There seem at least 2 problems with that sentence.

    “The mid-sixties was a pivotal time for jazz—before the electronic fusion experiments to come, as hard bop and free jazz combined with the dissonance of early 20th century contemporary classical music, which had “permeated jazz for at least a handful of artists.” ” – I was trying to decode what the last quote was meant to refer to, and decided to check the original.
    Dave Liebman: “By this time the harmonic innovations of the 20th century contemporary classical world towards more dissonance had permeated jazz for at least a handful of artists. ” Ohh. Well, that makes total sense, as expected from Dave Liebman. But I couldn’t make much sense of your sentence.

    I could go on, but I gotta stop doing editing work for free. :-) In short, although packed with gushing adjectives, the prose shows no respect to Coltrane, jazz or your readers at all.

  • Robert Bowden says:

    Nitpicking semantic arguments about a sublime piece of music which needs no words at all. Just watch/ listen ! The pity is that the rest is missing because the solo on Pursuance, the third movement, is among his best. At least we have the album. Trane lives.j

  • Pablo Narvaez says:

    So many words wasted on “scholarship,” when the subject and performance itself defies all written accounts of it.
    There is music, and particularly jazz at that, because words are not enough.

  • Dr. Larry Ridley says:

    John Coltrane was a great human being and a special friend!!! – Dr. Larry Ridley.

  • Diane Robinson says:

    Fortunately John, all I have to do is rewind, but you have to blow. Thank you for your rebellious rapture.

  • eric leimseider says:

    I’ve always assumed that the Coltrane Quartet used to play ‘A Love Supreme’ at some of their nightclub gigs in and around the year of the studio recording–1964.
    Why are you so sure that that wasn’t the case?

  • Joseph Tieman says:

    I was fortunate to find the live in Antibes recording years ago, and then they tacked it onto the LS Deluxe CD Reissue. I got this Seattle one in the mail today and it’s just wow… Especially hearing how Elvin Jones performs so clearly in this recording. It’s a very unique performance as is the Antibes material. I don’t need to pick a favorite, and on my next road trip I’ll listen to them all back to back to back… I hope they dig up some more, but I don’t really know how many times he performed this complete suite live. Regardless of the “bootleg” quality, for something this many years old, I’m not going to quibble…

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