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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