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Rewinding 2021 | Jazz Albums

New live albums by Coltrane, Miles & Art Blakey made the year a no-brainer for me.


I didn’t listen to as much jazz as I wanted to this year. But I think I managed to get through enough of the major releases to justify this roundup. And to be honest, newly unearthed live albums by John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Art Blakey kinda made the year a no-brainer for me.



John Coltrane
A Love Supreme: Live In Seattle

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: After nearly six decades, a private recording of a rare, nightclub performance by John Coltrane of his magnum opus A Love Supreme has finally arrived. Recorded in late 1965 on the culminating evening of a historic week-long run at The Penthouse in Seattle, A Love Supreme: Live In Seattle is a musical revelation of historic importance, capturing a Coltrane as he began to expand his classic quartet — adding Pharoah Sanders on second saxophone and Donald (Rafael) Garrett on second bass — and catapulting him into the intense, spiritually focused final phase of his career.

The significance of A Love Supreme: Live In Seattle is heightened by the fact that Coltrane seldom performed his four-part suite after originally recording it in the studio in 1964. Composed and created as a public declaration of his personal spiritual beliefs and universalist sentiment, it became a best-seller and received a Grammy nod the next year. For more than half a century, it seemed the only recorded public performance of A Love Supreme took place at a French festival in July 1965 and was released almost 20 years ago. The tape reels containing this performance from October 1965 sat in the private collection of Seattle saxophonist and educator Joe Brazil, heard by a few fortunate musicians and friends — and largely unknown until now.

A Love Supreme: Live In Seattle is a fascinating and rare performance of the full suite, marked by a looser and more improvisational approach, and a overriding sense of communal participation — much like a Sunday church service; the lineup featured Coltrane and Sanders on saxophones, McCoy Tyner on piano, Elvin Jones on drums, and Jimmy Garrison and Garrett on basses. Carlos Ward, then a young saxophonist just getting started on the scene, sat in as well.

As music historian Ashley Kahn puts it in the liner notes, A Love Supreme: Live In Seattle “offers the first evidence of the master of spiritual expression performing his signature work in the close confines of a jazz club … on Oct. 2, 1965, a Saturday, in Seattle, the necessary elements were in alignment: music, players, venue, a spirit of connection, a certain political charge. Coltrane chose to perform it, and significantly, the moment was recorded.”

Kahn’s extensive liner notes tell the story of A Love Supreme: Live In Seattle not only through the words of the musicians themselves, but also through a number of witnesses whose lives were changed by Coltrane’s visit to Seattle in 1965 (his sole visit to the city as a leader), including bassist David Friesen, who states: “I’ve always pursued the spiritual aspect of the music and I still do. I remember sitting with Coltrane during one break that week and … what touched me was the way he treated other people. He showed mercy and kindness to people from what I could see around me for the week that I was there.”

A Love Supreme: Live In Seattle was recorded with a two-microphone set-up onstage, connected to an Ampex reel-to-reel machine, and the only copies of the tapes were well cared for, yielding a remarkably clear and distortion-free recording. “What’s remarkable is that tapes from this era often suffer over the years from heat or moisture damage, or simply being stacked horizontally,” writes engineer Kevin Reeves, who produced this release. “However, these tapes are in excellent condition … and the results are among the best amateur recordings of John Coltrane we’ve had the pleasure to work on.”

The story of the A Love Supreme suite is the story of John Coltrane — his musical journey, and his spiritual path. It has become one of the most celebrated and influential recordings to come out of the jazz canon, revered and studied by musicians far beyond the jazz realm. “Of his many musical creations, Coltrane looked upon A Love Supreme in a very special light,” Kahn notes in the liner notes to A Love Supreme: Live In Seattle. “He called A Love Supreme a humble offering to the Divine; no other composition or recording was similarly offered nor did he append his signature to any other work. A Love Supreme was as much an individual testament as it was a public statemen t —a sermon of universalist belief.” A Love Supreme: Live In Seattle now expands the story of both a great musician and a timeless piece of music.”


Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers | First Flight to Tokyo: The Lost 1961 Recordings
Miles Davis | Merci Miles! Live At Vienne
John Dwyer, Ryan Sawyer, Greg Coates, Wilder Zoby + Andres Renteria | Gong Splat
John Dwyer, Ryan Sawyer, Greg Coates, Wilder Zoby + Andres Renteria | Moon Drenched
Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra | Promises
Kira | Kira
Sons of Kemet | Black To The Future
Various Artists | The Best Of Doris Wishman


Jon Batiste | We Are
Binker and Moses | Escape The Flames
Birthday Ass | Head Of The Household
Doug Carn | Jazz Is Dead 005
Cha Wa | My People
Cyclone Trio | The Clear Revolution
Echoes of Zoo | Breakout
Garage A Trois | Calm Down Cologne EP
Hamburg Spinners | Skorpion Im Stiefel
Yoko Kanno & Seatbelts | Cowboy Bebop Soundtrack
Kilter | Sys
Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio | I Told You So
Ledisi | Ledisi Sings Nina
R+R=NOW | R+R=NOW Live
Nina Simone | The Montreux Years
Dr. Lonnie Smith | Breathe
Wesley Stace | Late Style
Emma-Jean Thackray | Yellow
Various Artists | Vintage League Music: Family Album Vol. 1
Matthew E. White & Lonnie Holley | Broken Mirror: A Selfie Reflection