Monday Notes

John Coltrane, Acknowledgement. A Love Supreme, Jazz and spirituality

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[Monday Note No. 90] Acknowledgement is the first track on the album A Love Supreme, a suite in four movements in which John Coltrane describes his religious conversion. A spiritual path that is also an original and innovative musical journey.

John Coltrane uses an interval-based musical system for both themes and improvisations. The saxophonist creates his own musical and spiritual universe by going beyond the boundaries of tonal and modal music, creating his own personal code.

The theme opens with a pedal on an E major chord, over which the saxophonist plays freely and without tempo a theme based on just three notes: B, E, F#.

John Coltrane - Aknowledgement esempio 1
Aknowledgement is the opening track of ‘A Love Supreme’.

The intervals used in this introduction are the perfect fourth (B-E), the major second (E-F#) and the interval of perfect fifth, the sum of the other two (B-F#). The saxophonist plays no other notes, only these three.

At minute 0’32” the double bass introduces a pedal on the F minor chord.

John Coltrane - Aknowledgement esempio 2
The pedal played by the double bass on the Fm chord

This motif is based on the intervals of minor third (F-A♭) and perfect fourth (F-B♭). After this, Acknowledgement continues with a theme superimposed on the pedal (1’04”).

John Coltrane - Aknowledgement esempio 3
Aknowledgement – second theme

Again, the theme is built almost entirely on the same intervals as the opening part, the perfect fifth (C-G, F-C) and the major second (G-F, C-B♭). In the second line of the example we can also observe the employment of the minor third interval followed by a major second (at measure 5 F-A♭-B♭, at measure 6 C-E♭-F).

These two intervals are taken from the pattern played by the bass (example 2) and John Coltrane builds his solo by using this cell intensively, transposed to different starting notes.

John Coltrane - Aknowledgement esempio 4
John Coltrane uses the same motif, starting from different pitches

Still using this element, John Coltrane progressively moves away from the starting key Fm, at times even abandoning it altogether, in a musical journey without boundaries, despite being based on just three notes.

An incredible synthesis of essence and freedom, perfectly expressing the mystical experience of spiritual elevation that underlies the entire album. With this album, John Coltrane introduced fresh compositional and improvisational techniques, but above all, he made us a gift of his personal human and spiritual path. Not many artists succeed in this feat.

Until next Monday!

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