Best of 2021 in music

Best Historical Discoveries

John Coltrane ‎– A Love Supreme: Live In Seattle
A Holy Grail experience: listening to John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle’

The arrival of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle is unquestionably the most surprising archival release of 2021. Recorded at the end of a prolific stand at Seattle’s Penthouse club in the fall of 1965, these tapes sat unissued and unheard for more than 50 years — outside of a few close associates of saxophonist Joe Brazil, who taped the performance of the suite.

At the time of the engagement, the classic John Coltrane Quartet had blossomed to a septet aided by new arrival Pharoah Sanders and a couple of guests, Donald Raphael Garrett on a second bass and Carlos Ward on alto saxophone. These men push A Love Supreme to its outer limits, with each musician’s sonic discoveries sounding as revelatory for them as they were for that audience. This fiery, unrestrained music will likely be just as electrifying for current listeners.

A Love Supreme Live in Seattle

As soon as we learned about this release, we both had questions. How would this version of the suite compare with the only other known live version, recorded in Antibes, France earlier that year — or, for that matter, with the master 1964 studio version? Would the Seattle recording, which signals for some the beginning of the end for Coltrane’s accessibility, be a new gateway to understanding the avant-garde? Should this recording even be commercially available?

We listened together to A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle on Coltrane’s 95th birthday, only moments before recording this episode. In the tradition of the music heard on this amazing recording, the conversation shares a kindred spirit of discovery, awe, and even some irresolution. Time will be the best judge of the album’s impact and scope, but there’s no question that this lands among the most amazing archival discoveries of the past 50 years.

Hasaan Ibn Ali – Metaphysics: The Lost Atlantic Album

Hasaan’s 1965 Atlantic recordings, restored from long-lost acetate copies of the sessions.

“He had ideas as deep as the sea. I mean I never heard anybody, even today, play like that.” – Odean Pope – tenor saxophonist

“The pianist, Hasaan Ibn Ali, whom saxophonist Odean Pope calls “the most advanced player to ever develop [in Philadelphia],” had practiced intensively with John Coltrane in the early 1950s and is thought, by Pope and others, to have been the influence behind Coltrane’s so-called sheets of sound as well as the harmonic approach that underlay Coltrane’s breathrough Giant Steps, and also, with Earl Bostic, one of the two role models behind Coltrane’s strict work ethic. Yet he was rarely employed, even by musicians who respected his playing and his knowledge, thus leaving him with little chance to develop an audience. When he sat down at the piano at the Woodbine, an after-hours club in Philadelphia, all the horn players would leave the stand for they were unable to play with him, so unfamiliar were his harmonic concepts.” —from the liner notes

In 1964, drummer/composer Max Roach convinced Atlantic Records to record him with producer Nusuhi Ertegun at the helm. Sessions were held in December of 1964 and the resulting album, The Max Roach Trio Featuring The Legendary Hasaan was released three months later. Atlantic invited Ali to record again in August and September of 1965, but before mixing sessions could turn the recorded material into a releasable album, Ali had become incarcerated on a narcotics possession. Atlantic shelved the album. Thirteen years later that tape went up in flames in an Atlantic Records warehouse in Long Branch, New Jersey. For years a rumor circulated, that a copy of the sessions had been made, but attempts to locate it never turned up a source… until now.

Restored and mastered by Grammy® Award-winning engineer, Michael Graves from a tape copy of long-lost reference acetates of the sessions and with notes from producer Alan Sukoenig and author/pianist/teacher, Lewis Porter, Omnivore Recordings is proud to present this long-thought lost piece of jazz history. The project, co-produced by Alan Sukoenig and Grammy® Award-nominated producer, Patrick Milligan, and Grammy® Award-winning producer, Cheryl Pawelski, features the seven surviving tracks from the album sessions along with three surviving alternate takes. Packaging includes photos from December of 1964 by notable photographer Larry Fink, who refers to Ali as, “the Prokofiev of jazz.”

Personnel on the August 23 and September 7, 1965 sessions that took place at Atlantic Studios in New York City were Hasaan Ibn Ali, piano; Odean Pope, tenor sax; Art Davis, bass and Kalil Madi, drums and all are profiled in the liner notes.