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A Love Supreme

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A Love Supreme
A blue-tinted black-and-white photograph of Coltrane's face looking to the left, with the logo "A Love Supreme/John Coltrane" written in white bold Arial across the top.
Studio album by
ReleasedJanuary 1965 (1965-01)
RecordedDecember 9, 1964
StudioVan Gelder (Englewood Cliffs)
ProducerBob Thiele
John Coltrane chronology
A Love Supreme
The John Coltrane Quartet Plays

A Love Supreme is an album by the jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane. He recorded it in one session on December 9, 1964, at Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, leading a quartet featuring pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones.

A Love Supreme was released by Impulse! Records in January 1965. It ranks among Coltrane's best-selling albums and is widely considered as his masterpiece.


Elvin Jones in a black suit performing behind a drum kit
Elvin Jones (pictured in 1976)

A Love Supreme is a through-composed[2] suite[3] in four parts: "Acknowledgement" (which includes the oral chant that gives the album its name), "Resolution", "Pursuance", and "Psalm". Coltrane plays tenor saxophone on all parts. One critic has written that the album was intended to represent a struggle for purity, an expression of gratitude, and an acknowledgement that the musician's talent comes from a higher power.[4] Coltrane's home in Dix Hills, Long Island, may have inspired the album.[4] Another influence may have been Ahmadiyya Islam.[5]

The album begins with the bang of a gong (tam-tam) and cymbal washes on the first track, "Acknowledgement". Jimmy Garrison enters on double bass with the four-note motif that lays the foundation of the movement. Coltrane begins a solo. He plays variations on the motif until he repeats the four notes thirty-six times. The motif then becomes the vocal chant "a love supreme", sung by Coltrane accompanying himself through overdubs nineteen times.[6] According to Rolling Stone, this movement's four-note theme is "the humble foundation of the suite".[7]

In the fourth and final movement, "Psalm", Coltrane performs what he calls a "musical narration". Lewis Porter calls it a "wordless recitation".[8] The devotional is included in the liner notes. Coltrane "plays" the words of the poem on saxophone but doesn't speak them. Some scholars have suggested that this performance is an homage to the sermons of African-American preachers.[9] The poem (and, in his own way, Coltrane's solo) ends with the cry, "Elation. Elegance. Exaltation. All from God. Thank you God. Amen."[10]

A Love Supreme was categorized by Rockdelux as modal jazz, avant-garde jazz, free jazz, hard bop, and post-bop.[11]

Other performances[edit]

An alternative version of "Acknowledgement" was recorded the next day on December 10 with tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp and a second bassist, Art Davis. This version omitted Coltrane chanting "a love supreme"; he preferred the quartet version with the chant, placing that on the issued album. There are two known live recordings of the "Love Supreme" suite. For years the only known live recording of the "Love Supreme" suite was of a performance at the Festival Mondial du Jazz Antibes in Juan-les-Pins, France, on July 26, 1965. On October 29, 2002, the album was reissued as a remastered deluxe edition by Impulse! Records with this live performance and the alternate takes on a bonus disc.[12] A further iteration with more studio breakdowns and overdubs was issued as a three-disc complete masters edition released by Impulse! on November 20, 2015.[13] The other known live recording of the suite was recorded October 2, 1965, at The Penthouse in Seattle. The set was recorded by saxophonist Joe Brazil. This live performance was released on October 22, 2021, by Impulse! as A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle.[14]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Contemporary professional ratings
Review scores
Down Beat[15]
Record Mirror[16]

Released in January 1965 by Impulse! Records,[17] A Love Supreme became one of the most acclaimed jazz records,[18] and contemporary critics hailed it as one of the important albums of post-war jazz.[19] By 1970, it had sold about 500,000 copies, far exceeding Coltrane's usual sales of 30,000,[20] although it never charted on the Billboard 200.[2] It has since been regarded as Coltrane's masterpiece[21] and is "without question Coltrane's most beloved album", according to Robert Christgau, who adds that it "cemented 'Trane's divine status in Japan".[2]

Retrospective professional ratings
Review scores
All About Jazz[22]
And It Don't StopA−[2]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[24]
MusicHound Jazz5/5[25]
The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings[26]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[29]
Tom Hull – on the WebA+[30]

A Love Supreme was widely recognized as a work of deep spirituality and analyzed with religious subtext, although cultural studies scholars Richard W. Santana and Gregory Erickson argued that the "avant-garde jazz suite" could be interpreted otherwise.[31] According to music professor Ingrid Monson of Harvard University, the album was an exemplary recording of modal jazz.[32] Nick Dedina wrote on the Rhapsody web site that the music ranged from free jazz and hard bop to sui generis gospel music in "an epic aural poem to man's place in God's plan".[33] Calling it a "legendary album-long hymn of praise", Rolling Stone said that "Coltrane's majestic, often violent blowing (famously described as 'sheets of sound') is never self-aggrandizing" and that he is "aloft with his classic quartet", "soar[ing] with nothing but gratitude and joy" on a compelling journey for listeners.[7] The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide (1985) said that "each man performs with eloquence and economy", while calling the album "the masterpiece from the quartet's studio work", "the first comprehensive statement of Coltrane's spiritual concerns", and "the cornerstone of many Coltrane collections".[34] On the other hand, jazz critic Tom Hull said that he has not much considered the album "spiritual" but rather "the most perfectly plotted single piece of jazz ever recorded".[30]

A Love Supreme has appeared on professional listings of the greatest albums. In 2003, it was ranked number 47 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time;[7] maintaining the rating in a 2012 revised list,[35] re-ranking at number 66 in a 2020 reboot of the list.[36] NME ranked it number 188 on a similar list ten years later.[37] The manuscript for the album was included in the National Museum of American History's "Treasures of American History" collection at the Smithsonian Institution.[38] In 2015, the album was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry due to its "cultural, historic, or artistic significance."[39] It is Coltrane's second album to be included after Giant Steps in 2005.[40] It was included in Robert Dimery's 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[41] It was voted number 85 in the third edition of Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums (2000).[42]

Carlos Santana (1978), one of many rock musicians to have been deeply influenced by the album

According to Joachim-Ernst Berendt, the album's hymn-like quality permeated modern jazz and rock music.[43] As Christgau explains, the record was "adored by American hippies from the Byrds and Carlos Santana on down, and served as theme music to Lester Bangs's wake at CBGB".[2] Musicians such as Joshua Redman[44] and U2,[45] who mention the album in their song "Angel of Harlem",[46] have mentioned the influence of the album on their own work. Both Santana and fellow guitarist John McLaughlin have called the album one of their biggest early influences and recorded Love Devotion Surrender in 1973 as a tribute.[47] "Every so often this ceases to be a jazz record and is more avant-garde contemporary classical," said Neil Hannon of the band The Divine Comedy. "I love the combination of abstract piano that's all sort of 'clang', and weird chords with wailing saxophone over the top."[48]

In The Penguin Guide to Jazz, Richard Cook and Brian Morton gave A Love Supreme a rare "crown" rating but asked whether it was "the greatest jazz album of the modern period..or the most overrated?" Miles Davis, Coltrane's former bandleader, said the record "reached out and influenced those people who were into peace. Hippies and people like that". Jazz critic Martin Gayford later elucidated Davis' comments: If a listener is "in the mood", he wrote, "it's majestic and compelling; if you're not, it's interminable and pretentious." In Gayford's own appraisal for The Daily Telegraph, he argued that it "marked the point at which jazz—for good or ill—ceased for a while to be hip and cool, becoming instead mystical and messianic".[21] Christgau, writing in 2020, said, "it's meditative rather than freewheeling, with each member of his classic quartet instructed to embark on his own harmonically mapped excursion and the title set to a chanted four-note melody you could hum in your sleep. I'm on my fourth consecutive play with no signs of tune fatigue as I write, plus my wife loves it. All true, all remarkable. But how much you value it, I expect, depends on how much faith you place in your own spirituality." He concluded that the next time he will listen to the album "may well depend on who dies when".[2]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks composed by John Coltrane and published by Jowcol Music (BMI)

Original LP[edit]

Side one
No. Recorded Take number Title Length
1. December 9, 1964 90243 Part 1: "Acknowledgement" 7:47
2. December 9, 1964 90244‒7 Part 2: "Resolution" 7:22
Side two
No. Recorded Take number Title Length
1. December 9, 1964 90245‒1 Part 3: "Pursuance"/Part 4: "Psalm" 17:53

2002 deluxe edition[edit]

Disc one
No. Recorded Take number Title Length
1. December 9, 1964 90243 Part 1: "Acknowledgement" 7:43
2. December 9, 1964 90244‒7 Part 2: "Resolution" 7:20
3. December 9, 1964 90245‒1 Part 3: "Pursuance" 10:42
4. December 9, 1964 90245‒1 Part 4: "Psalm" 7:05
Disc two
No. Recorded Take number Title Length
1. July 26, 1965 n/a Introduction by André Francis 1:13
2. July 26, 1965 n/a "Acknowledgement" (Live) 6:11
3. July 26, 1965 n/a "Resolution" (Live) 11:36
4. July 26, 1965 n/a "Pursuance" (Live) 21:30
5. July 26, 1965 n/a "Psalm" (Live) 8:49
6. December 9, 1964 90244‒4 "Resolution" (Alternate take) 7:25
7. December 9, 1964 90244‒6 "Resolution" (Breakdown) 2:13
8. December 10, 1964 90246‒1 "Acknowledgement" (Alternate take) 9:09
9. December 10, 1964 90246‒2 "Acknowledgement" (Alternate take) 9:22

The Complete Masters (2015)[edit]

Disc 1 – The Original Stereo Album, Impulse! AS-77
  1. "Acknowledgement" – 7:42
  2. "Resolution" – 7:20
  3. "Pursuance" – 10:41
  4. "Psalm" – 7:05
 – Original Mono Reference Masters
  1. "Pursuance" – 10:42
  2. "Psalm" – 7:02
Disc 2 – Quartet Session, December 9, 1964
  1. "Acknowledgement" (vocal overdub 2) – 2:00
  2. "Acknowledgement" (vocal overdub 3) – 2:05
  3. "Resolution" (take 4/ alternate) – 7:25
  4. "Resolution" (take 6/ breakdown) – 2:13
  5. "Psalm" (undubbed version) – 6:59
 – Sextet Session, December 10, 1964
  1. "Acknowledgement" (Take 1 / alternate) – 9:24
  2. "Acknowledgement" (Take 2 / alternate) – 9:47
  3. "Acknowledgement" (Take 3 / breakdown with studio dialogue) – 1:26
  4. "Acknowledgement" (Take 4 / alternate) – 9:04
  5. "Acknowledgement" (Take 5 / false start) – 0:34
  6. "Acknowledgement" (Take 6 / alternate) – 12:33
Disc 3 – Live at Festival Mondial du Jazz Antibes, July 26, 1965
  1. Introduction by André Francis and John Coltrane – 1:13
  2. "Acknowledgement (Live)" – 6:12
  3. "Resolution (Live)" – 11:37
  4. "Pursuance (Live)" – 21:30
  5. "Psalm (Live)" – 8:49

Disc 3 is included only with the "Super Deluxe Edition" version of this release.


Close-up, worms eye-view of McCoy Tyner at a piano, backlit
McCoy Tyner played piano throughout both sessions for A Love Supreme

The John Coltrane Quartet[edit]

Additional personnel[edit]


  • Erick Labson – digital remastering (CD reissue)
  • Kevin Reeves – mastering (SACD)
  • Michael Cuscuna – liner notes, production, and remastering (deluxe edition)
  • Joe Alper – photography (CD reissue)
  • Jason Claiborne – graphics (CD reissue)
  • Hollis King – art direction (CD reissue)
  • Lee Tanner – photography (CD reissue)
  • Ken Druker – production (deluxe edition)
  • Esmond Edwards – photography (deluxe edition)
  • Ashley Kahn – liner notes and production (deluxe edition)
  • Peter Keepnews – notes editing (deluxe edition)
  • Hollis King – art direction (deluxe edition)
  • Bryan Koniarz – production (deluxe edition)
  • Edward O'Dowd – design (deluxe edition)
  • Mark Smith – production assistance (deluxe edition)
  • Sherniece Smith – art coordination and production (deluxe edition)
  • Chuck Stewart – photography (deluxe edition)
  • Bill Levenson – reissue supervisor (SACD)
  • Cameron Mizell – production coordination (SACD)
  • Ron Warwell – design (SACD)
  • Isabelle Wong – package design (SACD)


Sales certifications for A Love Supreme
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Italy (FIMI)[51] Gold 25,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[52] Gold 100,000
United States (RIAA)[53] Platinum 1,000,000

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "10 Essential Spiritual Jazz Albums". Treble Zine. April 13, 2017. Retrieved April 21, 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Christgau, Robert (April 8, 2020). "Consumer Guide: April, 2020". And It Don't Stop. Substack. Retrieved April 28, 2020.
  3. ^ Russonello, Giovanni (October 19, 2021). "What a Rare, Live 'A Love Supreme' Reveals About John Coltrane". Critic's Notebook. The New York Times. ISSN 1553-8095. OCLC 1645522. Retrieved March 2, 2024.
  4. ^ a b Kahn 2002
  5. ^ Hammer, Juliane; Safi, Omid (August 12, 2013). The Cambridge Companion to American Islam. Cambridge University Press. pp. 285–. ISBN 978-1-107-00241-8. Retrieved December 15, 2014.
  6. ^ Porter, 231–249.
  7. ^ a b c Staff. RS 500: 47) A Love Supreme Archived November 26, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 5, 2010.
  8. ^ Porter, 244.
  9. ^ Porter, 246–247.
  10. ^ Porter, 248.
  11. ^ Casas, Quim (December 23, 2015). "A Love Supreme". Rockdelux (in Spanish). Retrieved August 3, 2018.
  12. ^ A Love Supreme Deluxe Edition. 1997; Impulse! Records 314 589 945-2, back cover notes.
  13. ^ Porter, 249.
  14. ^ Russonello, Giovanni (October 19, 2021). "What a Rare, Live 'A Love Supreme' Reveals About John Coltrane". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 22, 2021.
  15. ^ DeMicheal, Don (April 8, 1965). "Spotlight Review: John Coltrane- A Love Supreme". Down Beat. p. 27.
  16. ^ Jones, Peter; Jopling, Norman (July 3, 1965). "John Coltrane: A Love Supreme" (PDF). Record Mirror. No. 225. p. 8. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 1, 2022. Retrieved August 18, 2022.
  17. ^ Anon. (2007). "A Love Supreme". In Irvin, Jim; McLear, Colin (eds.). The Mojo Collection (4th ed.). Canongate Books. p. 48. ISBN 978-1-84767-643-6.
  18. ^ Cook, Richard; Brian Morton (2006) [1992]. "John Coltrane". The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings. The Penguin Guide to Jazz (8th. ed.). New York: Penguin. pp. 273–4. ISBN 0-14-102327-9.
  19. ^ Anon. (1982). "John Coltrane". Black Music & Jazz Review. Vol. 5. p. 25.
  20. ^ Porter, 232.
  21. ^ a b Gayford, Martin (November 9, 2002). "Sublime - if you're in the mood". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  22. ^ Spencer, Robert (1997). "John Coltrane: A Love Supreme". All About Jazz. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  23. ^ Samuelson, Sam. "A Love Supreme Overview". AllMusic. Retrieved October 17, 2009.
  24. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "John Coltrane". Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  25. ^ Holtje, Steve; Lee, Nancy Ann, eds. (1998). "John Coltrane". MusicHound Jazz: The Essential Album Guide. Music Sales Corporation. ISBN 0-8256-7253-8.
  26. ^ Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (2008). The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (9th ed.). Penguin. p. 167. ISBN 978-0-141-03401-0.
  27. ^ Richardson, Mark (November 25, 2015). "A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on June 5, 2022. Retrieved August 18, 2022.
  28. ^ "A Love Supreme". Q. October 1995. p. 136.
  29. ^ Wolk, Douglas, "John Coltrane" in Hoard, Christian and Nathan Brackett, eds (2004). The Rolling Stone Album Guide, Fireside Books, pp. 182–185.
  30. ^ a b Hull, Tom (April 13, 2020). "Music Week". Tom Hull – on the Web. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  31. ^ Santana, Richard W.; Erickson, Gregory (2008). Religion and Popular Culture: Rescripting the Sacred. McFarland & Company. pp. 78–81. ISBN 978-0786435531.
  32. ^ Monson, Ingrid (2008). "Jazz: From Birth to the 1970s". In Koskoff, Ellen (ed.). The Concise Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Routledge. p. 359. ISBN 978-0415994033.
  33. ^ "A Love Supreme (Bonus Tracks) by John Coltrane". Rhapsody. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  34. ^ Swenson, J., ed. (1985). The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide. USA: Random House/Rolling Stone. p. 47. ISBN 0-394-72643-X.
  35. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved September 23, 2019.
  36. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. September 22, 2020. Retrieved October 9, 2021.
  37. ^ Kaye, Ben (October 25, 2013). "The Top 500 Albums of All Time, according to NME". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  38. ^ "A Love Supreme". National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved May 28, 2008.
  39. ^ "National Recording Registry Recognizes 'Mack the Knife,' Motown and Mahler". Library of Congress. March 23, 2016. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  40. ^ Law, Janee (March 31, 2016). "John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, Composed in Dix Hills, Added to National Registry". Long Islander News.
  41. ^ Dimery, Robert, ed. (2010). 1001 albums you must hear before you die (Rev. and updated ed.). New York, New York: Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2.
  42. ^ Colin Larkin (2006). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 70. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  43. ^ Berendt, Joachim-Ernst (2009). The Jazz Book: From Ragtime to the 21st Century. Chicago Review Press. p. 152. ISBN 978-1613746042.
  44. ^ "The A Love Supreme Interviews" (Joshua Redman discusses John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme"), on Jerry Jazz Musician Archived January 26, 2013, at archive.today
  45. ^ Palmer, Robert, "A Tribute to John Coltrane's Spirit", The New York Times, September 25, 1987.
  46. ^ Kahn, xxii.
  47. ^ Stump, Paul (2000). Go Ahead John: The Music of John McLaughlin. SAF. p. 65. ISBN 9780946719242.
  48. ^ Thornton, Anthony (November 1998). "Neil Hannon's Record Collection". Q (146): 67.
  49. ^ "Saint John Coltrane: Fifty Years of 'A Love Supreme'". religiondispatches.org. December 8, 2014. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  50. ^ Jarenwattananon, Patrick (March 28, 2014). "A Love Supreme Comes Alive in Unearthed Photos". NPR.
  51. ^ "Italian album certifications – John Coltrane – A Love Supreme" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved December 10, 2018. Select "2017" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "A Love Supreme" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Album e Compilation" under "Sezione".
  52. ^ "British album certifications – John Coltrane – A Love Supreme". British Phonographic Industry.
  53. ^ "American album certifications – John Coltrane – A Love Supreme". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved November 10, 2021.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]