Whenever you listen to John Coltrane
there is something “Other”, deeper, another poignancy
and daring you can hear. For the long time diggers, say peepas who
has heard, (late 50’s) “Blue Trane”, “You
Leave Me Breathless”,”Moment's Notice” , “Slow
Dance“ more times than Bush-2 has told the truth. Or, got
expansively perceptive reflecting the Miles Magnetos (Chambers,
Garland Philly Joe) sparkin' “Round Midnight“, Straight
No Chaser”, or the classic nuclear switchblade en (&”
out) semble (Cannonball). And got to the end of that “world”,
(1959) Trane’s Malcolmic entrances on “So What”,
his evocations of real- world contradiction on the otherwise moody
magical Kind of Blue.
That ending was the beginning Giant
Steps , the Nommo (Afro American for “No
More” and African for “Name”). If you was
somewhere on the set then “Giant Steps” was clearly
the “already gone”, the next stage. With “Naima”,
still among Trane’s most awesome creations, both composition
But from The Vounce from way back
"Slow Dance", "Alabama", the tag on "Summertime",
"Like Sonny", us way to be changing, the Stockholm gig’s
"So What", all them Miles' sides, that classic downer-
than -anything vision weapon ensemble. Miles Cannonball, Paul, Red,
Philly Joe. Evans. Like I said in Miles’ Eulogy (When Miles
Split), it was Miles who “sic’ed the straight out
vision monster on us…” Such was the still rising power
and tranformative force of such wailing and again in one of Trane
poems his music has given me, (“Am/trak”) , I called
him “The Monster with the horn”! What was it made us
hear what beauty calls “perfection”? That ensemble paragon
of hard bop, blue tender funk, whoo wow wam and you dig.
What gave it that symmetry of completion,
the fly Milesian blue near pop slickness, Cannonball in your face
city blues balanced against the rising knowing of that Trane re-
nother "myth -science" (sd Sunny) Black Bird, Osiris,
Orpheus, hymning Ra skyward ablaze in his tale. “Light Light”!
we cried, (even inside cave-like joints of smoky night) from black
through invisible , get down indigo, to see blues. And then that
Trane could keep on, from down to zoom straight up and went and
gone to dig, past that to truly nut altitude serious.
Trane was their insides the Blood
filled heart which Philly Joe then Elvin to Rashied pumped. From
that Milesian socio-aesthetic matriculation, came the splendid technical
and improvisational facility , a continuing insistence on exploration,
experiment, the advanced creativity that allowed him to aggressively
“art” with a revolutionary’s obsession with Freedom
that paralleled the periods world girdling campaigns for Political
Whether circular breathing, diverse
and innovative rhythmic and harmonic departures, modal, dorian scales,
shaped and matured him as musically fearless, undaunted by the pressures
of commerce. So that as he went on, the work got more incredibly
and intense, more intellectually and philosophically compelling.
From "Kula Se Mama", through
the lovely reincarnations of standards, “Body & Soul”,
“The Night Has A Thousand Eyes”, to "Africa",
the recently released "Esoterica", "My Favorite Things"
(the breakthrough on soprano) , that sound as it rose from black
through blue, now orange high like beginning air blown fire, last
seen exploding burst red red, then absolutely past that, up and
gone …into the infra red of our reflection , all the tones
and sounds and visions, revelations … took us out with him,
& we went, back into the inside of every any Blackness . Inside
to re-become in the When?
Then from the inside of the unseen,
that throbbing blackness, would burst “Impressions”,
"Chasing The Trane", "Equinox", "Alabama"
(that shattering tragicness, “After The Rain” or “Lonnie’s
Lament”). Where the music began was from within the where,
but for the next hour John Coltrane would let us hear what he felt,
thought, saw, was seeing, like the skyvision of the Revelator
on Patmos. Soon, live, there was only one piece per set. Without
Miles to tell him he was playing “too long”. But if
you run into any of us who were then thus showered with high meaning,
we would say, “he could still be playing”, if it was
up to we.
Between Trane’s two Miles’
residencies, Trane himself, like those times, was question and quest.
Like, “Where is we, past digging and being that hip”?
For the thoughtful, the world is always expanding and what you know
impresses you with what you have yet to find out. The word on the
street, “Trane is going through Changes”. He was in
motion, out of the Patmos like exile where (Scag) “The
Heavyweight Champ” had left him. Perhaps deeper questions
and so the quest, to get away and find a Way. Where else but further
“Out”, entering ultraviolet, from the edge of gone…remembering
itself in the future.
Who watched Trane enter the monastery
of His Outness, Thelonius, The High Priest of Gone. Then checked
John struggling to possess Monk’s deepness, it’s Dignataria,
and thus lay for Serious. “I’d go by his house
and get him out of bed. He’d get up and go over to the piano
and start playing. He’d play one of his tunes and he’d
look at me. So I’d get my horn out and start trying to find
what he was playing”
Who checked all this understands how
Monk invented “Break Dancing” once Trane was loaded
with the Vonce (dug “the arrangements”) And so released,
T. Sphere to conduct the band & the whole Five Spot
universe that season, while auto-choreographing the Beyond.
Trane getting inside "Epistrophy"' "Straight No Chaser",
"I Mean You", "Round About Midnight","Well
You Needn’t" "Misterioso" every night, can
be estimated from what is left on records the daunting harmony on
"Monk’s Mood", "Nutty", "Trinkle
Trinkle", "Ruby My Dear" , "Off Minor".
“Col trane Col Trane!” The dancer calls to hear his
From that then, on, until he split,
Trane went past serious, the furthermost star from On,
Who was actually There? The records
are always incomplete. Not really, anymore the breath of the living.
(Ayler’s records are not even that, only rumors) Was you with
us under the single song sets the barrage of sonic light, Of the
fortunate who did sit at the Half Note bombarded with the incredible
truth that beauty shapes our feelings with. Trane would nod, say
whatever, like his bearing, his voice had a quietness to it. As
if he were requesting a favor of the musicians.
With whoever did check the further
Oning, the up past Whereing, yo, dig! “Nature Boy”(
recorded as part of a benefit for The Black Arts Repertory Theater,
the details of which are now removed from the album), “TheWise
One”, “A Love Supreme”, “Africa”,
“India”, “Crescent”, “Equinox”,
“Meditations”, “Ascent”, always searching,
discovering way past the given. Added to the long perfected Bop
splendor, he would meld that light speed heat with a new Eastern
insistence, African motifs, the notes dimensions of time and space
Outvestigations. What never was merely media fixed as “sheets
of sound” or what the actual dead called “Barbaric yawps”
moved through increasingly more complex “harmelodic”discourse
to become the sonic visionary energy of elemental matter.. Like
the brain is matter which has evolved to think.
At times, as floods, bursts, continuums,
streams, not one-after- another, but colliding, dialectically turning
into each other, as if they were not content to be One entity, but
many, as One. The sound and force of the whole music containing
expansive layers and inferences …ideas, visions, dreams, prophecies…his
perception, rationale brought to the highest form of understanding,
which is Use!
Trane played living images!
In my own account of recent psycho-cultural
history, Malcolm and Trane collect as one reflection and location
of a political and aesthetic “electrical” social current
a being and seeing from feeling. To knowing. Trane, like Malcolm,
provided us with Understanding. Who them is try to fake the world
and say, for instance, Trane was mere “entertainment”,
like we said then, it was inner attainment. Why we digging
Trane made us hook him with Malcolm because we dug Trane digging
freedom from jump as trying to break out of the Tin Pan Alley peniteniary
for the dispassionately oppressed, the calmly exploited. Like us
all was trying to escape, to transform, slave-America.
Take this as a “Tag”.
One day in July 1967, the kid was in solitary confinement where
a NJ Kleagel had locked him for the crime of being pissed off at
being a slave. That whole day he whistles every sound he could remember
of The Revelator’s. Then just before evening a Negro guard,
who later denied in court yo’ man was even there like that,
pops open the peep hole to say, “John Coltrane died today!”
Amiri Baraka , 6/23/01