WOUB-HD to Broadcast John Coltrane Documentary Nov. 6< < Back to
“My music is the spiritual expression of what I am. My faith, my knowledge, my being.” — John Coltrane
Chris Pyle was in his mid-teens when he first purchased John Coltrane’s masterful 1965 work, A Love Supreme. The album is an open declaration by Coltrane that his lifelong musical devotion was clearly and completely tied to his faith in God, told by artful percussion and wailing horns.
“I didn’t get it at all at the time,” said Pyle, owner of Donkey Coffee, true music nerd, and part of local act The Wild Honeybees. Pyle initially picked up the record because Bono of U2 had lauded the work. “It wouldn’t be until a few years later, when I was in college, that I would put (A Love Supreme) on and have my face melted off by it.”
On Monday, November 6 at 10 p.m., WOUB-HD will broadcast John Scheinfeld’s Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary, which profiles the iconic musician, Pulitzer Prize winner, veteran of the U.S. Army and Navy, and canonized Saint. It’s worth noting that Scheinfeld is also responsible for 2006’s The U.S. vs. John Lennon and 2010’s Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?).
“There are a couple of jazz guys who are a part of the story of rock ‘n’ roll, even if their music couldn’t really be categorized as rock ‘n’ roll, and Miles Davis and John Coltrane are two of those people,” said Pyle.
Throughout his career, Coltrane would work extensively with the hard bop and free jazz players, notably Davis (with whom Coltrane had an occasionally tumultuous relationship with) and Thelonious Monk. Coltrane’s work would take on a strikingly spiritual flavor after the musician had what he deemed to be a “religious experience” in 1957, which freed him of his complicated and tortured issues with alcohol and heroin.
“In the liner notes for A Love Supreme, (Coltrane) basically writes a psalm,” said Pyle, reading off a few lines from the outstretched inner gatefold of the album. “This is all stuff that I probably would have thought was really weird in high school. By the time I was in college, I myself had found religion, so all of it made a lot more sense.”
Coltrane would dive deep into both Western and Eastern religious traditions, as well as some mysticism. He studied the Qu’ran, The Bible, Kabbalah, astrology, Buddhism (especially the Tibetan Book of the Dead,) Hinduism, Jiddu Krishnamurti, and the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, among others. In the liner notes of his 1966 album, Meditations, Coltrane would declare “I believe in all religions.”
“It’s interesting to see how Coltrane influenced so many people, so many rock acts, and not just in terms of their sound. I mean, Meditations is like noise rock before noise rock, and I feel like that really influenced groups like Sonic Youth, or even the Velvet Underground, especially on their second, noisier album,” said Pyle. “But there is also this sense of transcendence in his music – and that’s what U2 is all about. And Radiohead, too, I wouldn’t be surprised if Thom Yorke and those guys are listening to “A Love Supreme” all day every day.”
As millennial jokester Patrick Star once so sagely expressed in Grandma’s Kisses, a March 2001 episode of Spongebob Squarepants, in order to “(be a grown up…) you must acquire a taste for free form jazz.”
Pyle echoed this sentiment.
“I don’t think that (A Love Supreme) is something that you’ll ‘get’ right away,” he said. “You may be intrigued at first, but it’s definitely something that takes time to truly appreciate.”