A Love Supreme is a studio album by John Coltrane, recorded on December 9, 1964, and released in January 1965 on Impulse! Records. It's generally considered to be his greatest work and one of the greatest jazz albums of all time, period (in fact, it regularly dukes it out for the #1 spot on critics' lists with Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, which also features performances by Coltrane). It's some sort of a spiritual Concept Album, divided into a four part suite: "Acknowledgement", "Resolution", "Pursuance", and "Psalm". Compared to his previous albums, it also sold better; it is probably the best-selling free jazz (or even avant-garde jazz) album of all time.
The album manuscript is one of the National Museum of American History's "Treasures of American History", and part of the collection of the Smithsonian Institution. Time Magazine included the album, in their 2006 list of 100 timeless and essential albums. It was listed at #47 in Rolling Stone: 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
- Part 1: "Acknowledgement" (7:47)
- Part 2: "Resolution" (7:22)
- Part 3: "Pursuance" (10:42)
- Part 4: "Psalm" (7:05)
The 2002 CD version adds a bonus CD with a live performance at the Festival Mondial du Jazz Antibes in Juan-les-Pins, France, on July 26, 1965 (the only known live recording of the song suite in its entirety; there's a running debate among fans as to whether this is even better than the studio record), and four outtakes from the studio sessions (of which the latter two were recorded on December 10, 1964; they are specifically take four and take one from the sextet sessions mentioned below):
- Introduction by Andre Francis (1:14)
- Part 1: "Acknowledgement" (live) (6:12)
- Part 2: "Resolution" (live) (11:37)
- Part 3: "Pursuance" (live) (21:31)
- Part 4: "Psalm" (live) (8:49)
- Part 2: "Resolution" (alternate take) (7:25)
- Part 2: "Resolution" (breakdown) (2:13)
- Part 1: "Acknowledgement" (alternate take) (9:09)
- Part 1: "Acknowledgement" (alternate take) (9:23)
And then there's a two- or three-disc The Complete Masters version from 2015, which has the following "original mono reference masters" as bonus tracks on disc one after the original album:
- "Pursuance" - 10:42
- "Psalm" - 7:02
A second disc with five tracks from the quartet session on December 9, 1964, followed by six from a sextet session on December 10, 1964:
- "Acknowledgement" (vocal overdub 2) (2:00)
- "Acknowledgement" (vocal overdub 3) (2:05)
- "Resolution" (take 4 / alternate) (7:25)
- "Resolution" (take 6 / breakdown) (2:13)
- "Psalm" (undubbed version) (6:59)
- "Acknowledgement" (Take 1 / alternate) (9:24)
- "Acknowledgement" (Take 2 / alternate) (9:47)
- "Acknowledgement" (Take 3 / breakdown with studio dialogue) (1:26)
- "Acknowledgement" (Take 4 / alternate) (9:04)
- "Acknowledgement" (Take 5 / false start) (0:34)
- "Acknowledgement" (Take 6 / alternate) (12:33)
And, in the "Super Deluxe Edition" of this release only, a third disc containing the July 26, 1965, live performance listed above.
- John Coltrane: tenor saxophone, vocals
- Jimmy Garrison: double bass
- Elvin Jones: drums
- McCoy Tyner: piano
On the sextet tracks, these four are joined by:
- Archie Shepp: tenor saxophone
- Art Davis: double bass
- Album Title Drop: None of the songs share the album's title. However, "Acknowledgement" (in the album version; the live performance and most alternate takes are completely instrumental) ends with Coltrane putting down his sax and chanting "A love supreme, a love supreme..." into the mic.
- All Drummers Are Animals: Elvin Jones gets several solos on the album, and even when he isn't soloing he's packing a lot of power into his playing.
- Broken Record: The first song repeats the album title several times.
- Concept Album: The album can be interpreted as a spiritual record expressing the artist's deep gratitude towards spiritual higher powers for his talent.
- Covers Always Lie: There's nothing in the title or font and back of the gatefold album cover that implies that the album will be a spiritual journey. Most people would probably think it's about a romantic love for a partner, though the more religiously inclined might guess it. However, the inner gatefold makes Coltrane's intentions clear with his highly spiritual liner notes.
- Deliberately Monochrome: The album cover. Even the record label got into the act. Normally, Impulse! used a black and orange color scheme for their albums' graphic design. However, for A Love Supreme, they went with a black and white scheme, visually signifying that they thought this album was important.
- Dramatic Timpani: Elvin Jones uses these during "Part IV: Psalm."
- Epic Rocking: No songs from the original album are fewer than seven minutes long, with the longest hitting 10:42. The bonus disc has mostly very long songs, too, with the longest hitting 21:31. The intro and breakdown are the only tracks that don't hit at least six minutes in length, and they probably don't count.
- Face on the Cover: Coltrane's face in close-up.
- Fading into the Next Song: "Pursuance" leads into "Psalm" in both the studio and live versions. Even bearing in mind that it's a live performance, there isn't really any gap in between "Acknowledgement" and "Resolution" in the live version either. If you weren't looking at your media player, you wouldn't notice the transition. The gap between the two tracks is more distinct in the studio performance.
- Improv: Like most jazz, A Love Supreme is heavily built around improvisation.
- Instrumental: All tracks except the first on the original album are completely instrumental. There is a spoken word portion in French on the reissue introducing Coltrane and his band, plus a brief bit seeing them off. Alternate takes of "Acknowledgement" don't always even have the vocal segment.
- Lighter and Softer: Compared to a lot of other free jazz experiments (especially Coltrane's), this one is quite gentle, which is probably one of the reasons it sold better than many of them. That's not to say there are no moments of dissonance, but they are relatively few in quantity and short in duration in comparison to the number found on many other Coltrane discs from around the same period.
- Limited Lyrics Song: Apart from the Album Title Drop, the first song is instrumental too.
- One-Word Title: All the tracks consist of one abstract concept, summarized in one word.
- U2 mentions the album in their song "Angel of Harlem" from Rattle and Hum.
- The track "Friend of the People" by Lupe Fiasco, has him provide a Freestyle Version, over Coltrane "A Love Supreme."
- Artists as diverse as tenor Joshua Redman, John McLaughlin, Carlos Santana, and The Divine Comedy have credited the album, as one of their greatest influences.
- Siamese Twin Songs: Some CD versions of the song combine "Pursuance" and "Psalm" into one track.
- Soul Power: The album is a homage to spiritual energy gained from higher powers.
- Thank the Maker: "A Love Supreme" expresses Coltrane's supreme love to higher powers. He had interest in Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism for several years, and this came out in this work.