Friday, August 25, 2006

what is soul? - part 129

Before we head into the next part of my irregular series of Miles Davis posts, I thought I'd post a track by one of his many sidemen, which is one of my favourite jazz performances ever.

John Coltrane - Alabama

"Alabama" was Coltrane's response to the horrific bombing of a Baptist church in Birmingham on Sunday 15 September 1963. White racists planted a dozen sticks of dynamite in the church basement which went off at 10.45am, injuring 20 people and killing the four girls pictured above.

Coltrane was not a player noted for his brevity. On one of his final live recordings, there is an hour-long version of "My Favourite Things". He once admitted to Miles Davis that he was often at a loss to know when to stop playing, to which Miles responded, "Try taking the saxophone out of your mouth".

Coltrane could have gone all the way with "Alabama", shrieking and wailing with torment to vent his rage at the senselessness of the act. Instead, the piece is just over 5 minutes long, subdued, elegant and noble. I found a great piece about this track (and Coltrane's work) by Martin Smith, that originally appeared in the Socialist Review:
[Coltrane] patterned his saxophone playing on Martin Luther King's funeral speech. Midway through the song, mirroring the point where King transforms his mourning into a statement of renewed determination for the struggle against racism, Elvin Jones's drumming rises from a whisper to a pounding rage. He wanted this crescendo to signify the rising of the civil rights movement.
The playing throughout is beautiful, with amazingly sensitive backing from McCoy Tyner (piano), Elvin Jones (drums) and Jimmy Garrison (bass). The outpouring of volume and grief towards the end is so much more effective for the soulful way that it gets there.

There's a TOTALLY GOB-SMACKING TV performance of "Alabama" here.

The bombing became a turning point in the US civil rights movement - read more (particularly about the hideously drawn out investigation and prosecution process) here.

Visit - John Coltrane
Buy - John Coltrane Live at Birdland


Typical! You big Miles Davis Nazi..posting Coltrane and labelling him a "Davis Sideman"

Please - more respect for The Trane!

Next you'll be posting Sinatra as Bing Crosby's sideman...


Excellent stuff, especially the YouTube link. Superb! 

Miles Davis Nazi...

lord knows i have nothing but respect for The Trane, I was just tying it in with my Davis posts - you could do a whole blog just posting great stuff by people who have played with him. "Sideman" was a poor choice of phrase, admittedly. but the Miles tracks I posted last are credited to "Miles Davis", so in a sense Coltrane was a sideman on those sessions?!?

i look forward to your blog, Francis, and expect to see "Kulu Se Mama" in full...!


Frankosonic is rolling... 

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