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 John Coltrane
Released January 1965 (1965-01)
Recorded December 9, 1964
Studio Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs
Genre Modal jazz, avant-garde jazz, free jazz, hard bop
Length 33:02
Label Impulse!
Producer Bob Thiele
John Coltrane chronology
A Love Supreme
The John Coltrane Quartet Plays
(1965)The John Coltrane Quartet Plays1965

A Love Supreme is a 1965 studio album by American jazz saxophonist and bandleader John Coltrane. He recorded the album with his quartet—featuring pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Elvin Jones—in one session on December 9, 1964, at Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

A Love Supreme was released by Impulse! Records in January 1965 and became a top-selling album for Coltrane, as well as one of jazz's most critically acclaimed recordings. Since then, it has often been viewed as one of the greatest albums of all time, a deeply spiritual work, and Coltrane's masterpiece.


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

A Love Supreme is a four-part suite, broken up into tracks: "Acknowledgement" (which contains the mantra that gave the suite its name), "Resolution", "Pursuance", and "Psalm". It is intended to be a spiritual album, broadly representative of a personal struggle for purity, and expresses the artist's deep gratitude as he admits to his talent and instrument as being owned not by him but by a spiritual higher power.[1] Coltrane's home in Dix Hills, Long Island, has been suggested as the site of inspiration for A Love Supreme.[1] His exposure to Ahmadiyya Islam has also been suggested as a source of influence.[2] Coltrane plays exclusively tenor on all parts.

The album begins with the bang of a gong (tam-tam), followed by cymbal washes. Jimmy Garrison follows on bass with the four-note motif that structures the entire movement. Coltrane's solo follows. Besides soloing upon variations of the motif, at one point Coltrane repeats the four notes over and over in different transpositions. After 36 repetitions, the motif becomes the titular vocal chant "A Love Supreme", sung by Coltrane (accompanying himself via overdubs).[3] Near the end of the song when drums and cymbals stop playing altogether, Garrison plays the four notes several times before playing the descending notes, then playing the ending riff that will take the album into the second portion of the suite.

In the final movement, Coltrane performs what he calls a "musical narration" (Lewis Porter describes it as a "wordless 'recitation'")[4] of a devotional poem he included in the liner notes. That is, Coltrane "plays" the words of the poem on saxophone, but does not actually speak them. Some scholars have suggested that this performance is a homage to the sermons of African-American preachers.[5] The poem (and, in his own way, Coltrane's solo) ends with the cry "Elation. Elegance. Exaltation. All from God. Thank you God. Amen."[6]

Other performances[edit]

An alternative version of "Acknowledgement" was recorded the next day on December 10. This version, which included tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp and bassist Art Davis, did not feature Coltrane chanting "a love supreme", one reason he chose to issue the quartet version.[7]

The only recorded live performance of the "Love Supreme" suite, from a July 26, 1965, performance at the Festival Mondial du Jazz Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, France, was also remastered and released in a 2002 two-CD set by Impulse! Records with the original album and additional studio outtakes.

Mahavishnu John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana kicked off their 1973 album Love Devotion Surrender with a cover version of "Acknowledgment", under the title "A Love Supreme".

Reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
All About Jazz 5/5 stars[8]
AllMusic 5/5 stars[9]
Down Beat 5/5 stars[10]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 5/5 stars[11]
MusicHound Jazz 5/5[12]
The Penguin Guide to Jazz 5/5 stars[13]
PopMatters 10/10[14]
Q 5/5 stars[15]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars[16]
Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide 5/5 stars[17]

Released in January 1965 by Impulse! Records,[18] A Love Supreme became one of the most acclaimed jazz albums of all time[19] and has been widely regarded as Coltrane's masterpiece.[20] It was also quite popular for a jazz record, selling about 500,000 copies by 1970, a number far exceeding Coltrane's typical Impulse! sales of around 30,000.[21] Colin Larkin hailed it as his greatest album and "one of the most profoundly moving records in all of jazz".[22] According to Harvard music scholar Ingrid Monson, the album was an exemplary recording of modal jazz,[23] while Nick Dedina wrote in Rhapsody 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".[24] Rolling Stone called it a "legendary album-long hymn of praise" and stated: "the indelible four-note theme of the first movement, 'Acknowledgement,' is the humble foundation of the suite. But Coltrane's majestic, often violent blowing (famously described as 'sheets of sound') is never self-aggrandizing. Aloft with his classic quartet..., Coltrane soars with nothing but gratitude and joy. You can't help but go with him."[25] It was widely accepted 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 as otherwise strictly based on the music being heard.[26]

A Love Supreme has been viewed as one of the greatest albums of all time; according to Acclaimed Music, it is the 68th most frequently ranked record on critics' all-time lists.[27] In 2003, it was ranked number 47 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time;[25] NME ranked it number 188 on a similar list 10 years later.[28] The manuscript for the album was admitted as one of the National Museum of American History's "Treasures of American History", part of the collection at the Smithsonian Institution.[29] In 2016, the album was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry due to its "cultural, historic, or artistic significance."[30] It was also included in Robert Dimery's 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[31]

According to Joachim-Ernst Berendt, the album's hymn-like quality impacted and permeated modern jazz and rock music.[32] Musicians ranging from tenor Joshua Redman[33] to the rock band U2,[34] (which mentions the album in their song "Angel of Harlem",[35]) have singled out the influence of the album on their own work. Guitarists John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana have each credited the album as one of their greatest early influences, and recorded Love Devotion Surrender in 1973 as a tribute.[36] "Every so often this ceases to be a jazz record and is more avant-garde contemporary classical," remarked Neil Hannon, frontman of 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."[37]

In The Penguin Guide to Jazz, writers Richard Cook and Brian Morton gave A Love Supreme a rare "crown" rating, but mused 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". In a lukewarm retrospective review, Martin Gayford from The Daily Telegraph 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". If a listener is "in the mood", he wrote, "it's majestic and compelling; if you're not, it's interminable and pretentious."[20]

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
3. 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
 – Trane's 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


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)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kahn 2002
  2. ^ Hammer, Juliane, and Omid Safi, eds. (2013). The Cambridge Companion to American Islam. Cambridge University Press. p. 285. Retrieved December 15, 2014. 
  3. ^ Porter, 231–249.
  4. ^ Porter, 244.
  5. ^ Porter, 246–247.
  6. ^ Porter, 248.
  7. ^ Porter, 249.
  8. ^ Spencer, Robert (1997). "John Coltrane: A Love Supreme". All About Jazz. Retrieved July 2, 2016. 
  9. ^ Samuelson, Sam. "A Love Supreme Overview". AllMusic. Retrieved October 17, 2009. 
  10. ^ Janowiak, John (April 8, 1965). "A Love Supreme". Down Beat. 
  11. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "John Coltrane". Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8. 
  12. ^ Holtje, Steve; Lee, Nancy Ann, eds. (1998). "John Coltrane". MusicHound Jazz: The Essential Album Guide. Music Sales Corporation. ISBN 0-8256-7253-8. 
  13. ^ Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (1992). The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, LP and Cassette. Penguin Books. p. 225. ISBN 0-14-015364-0. 
  14. ^ Fiander, Matthew (2015). "John Coltrane: A Love Supreme (The Complete Masters)". PopMatters. Retrieved July 2, 2016. 
  15. ^ "A Love Supreme". Q. October 1995. p. 136. 
  16. ^ Wolk, Douglas, "John Coltrane" in Hoard, Christian and Nathan Brackett, eds (2004). The Rolling Stone Album Guide, Fireside Books, pp. 182–185.
  17. ^ Swenson, J. (Editor) (1985). The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide. USA: Random House/Rolling Stone. p. 47. ISBN 0-394-72643-X. 
  18. ^ Anon. (2007). "A Love Supreme". In Irvin, Jim; McLear, Colin. The Mojo Collection (4th ed.). Canongate Books. p. 48. ISBN 1-84767-643-X. 
  19. ^ 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. 
  20. ^ a b Gayford, Martin (November 9, 2002). "Sublime - if you're in the mood". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved July 2, 2016. 
  21. ^ Porter, 232.
  22. ^ Larkin, Colin (1994). Guinness Book of Top 1000 Albums (1 ed.). Gullane Children's Books. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-85112-786-6. 
  23. ^ Monson, Ingrid (2008). "Jazz: From Birth to the 1970s". In Koskoff, Ellen. The Concise Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Routledge. p. 359. ISBN 0415994039. 
  24. ^ "A Love Supreme (Bonus Tracks) by John Coltrane". Rhapsody. Retrieved July 2, 2016. 
  25. ^ a b Staff. RS 500: 47) A Love Supreme. Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 5, 2010.
  26. ^ Santana, Richard W.; Erickson, Gregory (2008). Religion and Popular Culture: Rescripting the Sacred. McFarland & Company. pp. 78–81. ISBN 0786435534. 
  27. ^ "John Coltrane". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved July 2, 2016. 
  28. ^ Kaye, Ben (October 25, 2013). "The Top 500 Albums of All Time, according to NME". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved July 2, 2016. 
  29. ^ "A Love Supreme". National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved May 28, 2008. 
  30. ^ "National Recording Registry Recognizes 'Mack the Knife,' Motown and Mahler". Library of Congress. March 23, 2016. Retrieved February 18, 2017. 
  31. ^ Dimery, Robert, and Michael Lydon (March 23, 2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2.
  32. ^ Berendt, Joachim-Ernst (2009). The Jazz Book: From Ragtime to the 21st Century. Chicago Review Press. p. 152. ISBN 1613746040. 
  33. ^ "The A Love Supreme Interviews" (Joshua Redman discusses John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme"), on Jerry Jazz Musician Archived January 6, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  34. ^ Palmer, Robert, "A Tribute to John Coltrane's Spirit", The New York Times, September 25, 1987.
  35. ^ Kahn, xxii.
  36. ^ Stump, Paul (2000). Go Ahead John: The Music of John McLaughlin. SAF. p. 65. ISBN 9780946719242. 
  37. ^ Thornton, Anthony, "Neil Hannon's Record Collection", Q #146, November 1998, p. 67.
  38. ^ "Saint John Coltrane: Fifty Years of 'A Love Supreme'". religiondispatches.org. December 8, 2014. Retrieved February 18, 2017. 
  39. ^ Jarenwattananon, Patrick (March 28, 2014). "A Love Supreme Comes Alive in Unearthed Photos". NPR. 


External links[edit]