Interstellar Space

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This article is about the album by John Coltrane. For the term in astronomy, see interstellar medium.
Interstellar Space
An orange photo of the sun above the clouds with "JOHN COLTRANE" written in brown and "INTERSTELLAR SPACE" written in orange at the top.
Studio album by John Coltrane
Released 1974
Recorded February 22, 1967
Studio Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey
Genre Free jazz
Length 36:27
Label Impulse!
Producer John Coltrane
John Coltrane chronology
Expression
(1967)
Interstellar Space
(1974)

Interstellar Space is a studio album by American jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. It was recorded in 1967, the year of his death, and released by Impulse! Records in 1974.

Composition[edit]

Piano and bass were becoming residual by the last days of Coltrane's quartet; you braced yourself for the moment he abandoned any pretext of an underlying harmony and went mano a mano with Elvin Jones. These duets with Rashied Ali start there—and the spare compositional guidelines only up the intensity.

 — Francis Davis, The Village Voice[1]

Interstellar Space consists of an extended duet suite in four parts with the drummer Rashied Ali, and was recorded at the Van Gelder Studio on February 22, 1967, the week after the session that produced Stellar Regions. As a result, the melodies often overlap; "Venus" has the same melody as the title track of the previous LP, "Mars" quotes the melody of what became known as "Iris", and many note choices and runs are similar.

At the beginning of most of the songs, Coltrane plays chime-like bells, while Ali sets a shifting pattern on the drums; then the theme is stated by Coltrane on tenor saxophone. The album is an example of highly improvised free jazz, which was Coltrane's principal interest in the latter part of his career. Coltrane's improvisations are thus extremely free here, stating tacit modes and harmonies briefly and modulating constantly, fitting extremely dense, twisting expressions into breath-length phrases. The folkish "Venus" is probably the most accessible number; "Saturn", the longest piece, does feature hints of swing by song's end. Its melody is rather similar to the canonical, almost cantor-like quality of the material on Stellar Regions.

The original album featured four tracks: "Mars" (titled "C Major" in the ABC/Paramount session sheets), "Venus" (titled "Dream Chant" in the session sheets), "Jupiter", and "Saturn". Two further tracks from the session, "Leo" and "Jupiter Variation", later appeared on the compilation album Jupiter Variation in 1978. A 2000 CD reissue collected all of the tracks from the session, including false starts for "Jupiter Variation" in the CD's pregap.

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[2]
Down Beat 4/5 stars[3]
The Penguin Guide to Jazz 4/4 stars[4]
The Rolling Stone Record Guide 4/5 stars[5]
Sputnikmusic 4/5[6]
The Village Voice A–[7]

In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone, music journalist Stephen Davis called Interstellar Space "plainly astounding" and found Ali to be the ideal complement for Coltrane's mystical ideas: "He outlandishly returns the unrelenting outpour of energy spewing from Trane, and the result is a two-man vulcanism in which Ali provides the subterranean rumblings through which the tenor explodes in showers of notes."[8] Robert Christgau wrote in his column for The Village Voice that he was amazed by the duets, which "sound like an annoyance until you concentrate on them, at which point the interactions take on pace and shape, with metaphorical overtones that have little to do with the musical ideas being explored."[7]

In a review of Interstellar Space‍ '​s expanded CD reissue, jazz critic Scott Yanow from AllMusic deemed it "rousing if somewhat inaccessible music" with transformative, emotional duets that showcase Coltrane's flair for improvising without a traditional jazz accompaniment.[2] Tiny Mix Tapes wrote that the "fierce free-jazz rumination" is not as important as his other albums Giant Steps (1960) and A Love Supreme (1965), but it better encapsulates Coltrane's spiritual and stylistic growth, including his understanding and grasp of multiphonic techniques, overtone sounds, and altissimo notes.[9] According to Down Beat magazine, Interstellar Space best exemplified the formal principles Coltrane applied to his more spiritual music,[3] while Derek Taylor from All About Jazz called it one of his most important recordings, distinct from previous duets he recorded with the likes of Elvin Jones:

Covers[edit]

In 1999, guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Gregg Bendian released their versions of "Mars", "Leo", "Venus", "Jupiter" and "Saturn" on the album Interstellar Space Revisited: The Music of John Coltrane.[11] In 2009, noise music ensemble MPIMOD recorded an interpretation entitled "Satan Plays John Coltrane's "Interstellar Space"" on their album The Last Temptation of Ted Haggard. This version was performed on the recorder.[citation needed]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Mars" – 10:43
  2. "Venus" – 8:36
  3. "Jupiter" – 5:25
  4. "Saturn" – 11:43

CD bonus tracks (already available on The Mastery of John Coltrane, Vol. 3: Jupiter Variation):

  1. "Leo" – 10:56
  2. "Jupiter variation" – 6:43
The 2000 CD reissue also includes a brief rehearsal fragment as well as two false starts of "Jupiter Variation" and studio chatter between Coltrane and Ali. These outtakes are hidden in the pre-gap before "Mars".

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Davis, Francis (2006). "The John Coltrane Guide". The Village Voice (May 30) (New York). Retrieved May 10, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Yanow, Scott. "Interstellar Space - John Coltrane". AllMusic. Retrieved May 10, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Down Beat (Chicago) (March): 48. 1992. ...the best case for the formalism that accompanied his spiritualism...  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (1992). The Penguin Guide to Jazz. Penguin Books. p. 229. ISBN 9780140153644. 
  5. ^ Swenson, J. (Editor) (1979). The Rolling Stone Record Guide. USA: Random House/Rolling Stone. p. 182. ISBN 0-394-41096-3. 
  6. ^ "John Coltrane - Interstellar Space User Opinions". Sputnikmusic. Scroll down to Hernan M. Campbell STAFF. Retrieved May 20, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1974). "Consumer Guide (51)". The Village Voice (December 23) (New York). Retrieved May 10, 2015. 
  8. ^ Davis, Stephen (1975). "John Coltrane: Interstellar Space". Rolling Stone (New York) (July 3). Archived from the original on May 10, 2015. Retrieved May 10, 2015. 
  9. ^ "1967: John Coltrane - Interstellar Space". Tiny Mix Tapes. October 9, 2008. Retrieved May 10, 2015. 
  10. ^ Taylor, Derek (August 1, 2000). "John Coltrane: Interstellar Space". All About Jazz. Retrieved May 10, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Interstellar Space Revisited (The Music of John Coltrane)". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 2 March 2015. 

External links[edit]