Om (John Coltrane album)

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Studio album by
ReleasedJanuary/early February 1968[1]
RecordedOctober 1, 1965
Camelot Sound Studios, Ballard, Seattle, Washington
GenreFree jazz, avant-garde jazz
ProducerBob Thiele
John Coltrane chronology
Interstellar Space
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic2.5/5 stars[2]
Sputnikmusic4/5 stars[3]
The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide3/5 stars[4]

Om is a posthumously-released album by John Coltrane, recorded on October 1, 1965, the day after the recording of Live in Seattle, and featuring the same players with the addition of Joe Brazil. It consists of a single 29-minute work broken into two parts when released on LP, and was included on The Major Works of John Coltrane, a compilation CD released in 1992.

Om was issued by Impulse! in 1968. The title refers to the sacred sound and spiritual symbol in Indian religions. Coltrane described Om as "the first vibration - that sound, that spirit, which set everything else into being. It is The Word from which all men and everything else comes, including all possible sounds that man can make vocally. It is the first syllable, the primal word, the word of power."[5] The recording begins and ends with the musicians chanting in unison a verse from chapter nine of the Bhagavad Gita:

Rites that the Vedas ordain, and the rituals taught by the scriptures, all these am I, and the offering made to the ghosts of the fathers, herbs of healing and food. The mantram. The clarified butter. I, the oblation and I, the flame into which it is offered. I am the sire of the world, and this world's mother and grandsire. I am he who awards to each the fruit of his action. I make all things clean. I am Om![6][7]

In the liner notes, Nat Hentoff wrote: "It may be that to break the circumscribed limits of conventional hearing, the ear must be propelled to hear sounds and pitches it has rejected in the past, just as compassion is not come by in conventional comfort. And once heard and absorbed, these sounds lead to further extensions of listening and feeling capacities... In so far as one can ever advise anyone else in how to listen, I would suggest that they start by not worrying about how it is all structured, where it's leading. Let the music come in without any pre-set definitions of what jazz has to be, of what music has to be."[5]


Om was recorded the day after Coltrane and his band played live in Seattle, as documented by recording engineer (and sometime drummer) Jan Kurtis. The next day the whole band traveled to Kurtis' studio, Camelot Sound Studios, in a rented house in Lynnwood, to record Om.[8][9] It is believed that Coltrane was using LSD during the recording, though this is disputed.[10] (Lewis Porter wrote that "Coltrane may have been tripping on LSD when he recorded Om. It is certain that he did begin using LSD around this time,"[11] "according to four reliable sources, speaking off the record."[12]) According to Eric Nisenson, Coltrane, "clearly embarrassed by Om, instructed Bob Thiele that he never wanted it released."[13] However, Thiele, the director and producer of Impulse!, did release it in 1968 to capitalize on Coltrane's death and on the growing psychedelic rock scene at the time. Upon its release, "a copy was almost immediately placed in the window of the Haight-Ashbury Psychedelic Shop."[13]


Opinions regarding Om have been mixed. David Nelson McCarthy called it "Coltrane's only major release of questionable quality... featuring screechy playing and moaning vocals, this is for true believers and historical interest only."[14] Ben Ratliff described it as "a fairly disjointed, agitated, muddy, twenty-nine-minutes catharsis."[6] An Allmusic review by Stacia Proefrock commented: "Condemned by many critics as John Coltrane's worst album, Om suffers only in comparison to the great works that preceded it... Om... seems... like a pure release of energy... Regardless of its seeming chaos, this is a deeply spiritual work... Om resonates with passion and yearning, but has a frantic edge that suggests that opening up to all of that powerful spiritual energy might have been a frightening experience... Om doesn't deserve the dismissal it has been given by critics. It is an important work in the history of free jazz that opens up considerably by the end of its 29 minutes, revealing the expansive contents of a jazz master's mind."[2]

Guerino Mazzola and Paul Cherlin wrote that "Compared to the other LPs of that year (1965), Om lives on another planet... This journey is not for beginners... It would be fair to listen to this performance without any reference to jazz or to any other disciplined utterance of music."[15] In an article for All About Jazz, Simon Weil wrote: "Om qualifies as fearsome. There are moments, particularly during the closing unison passages, when it feels like one is getting beaten over the head with a blunt instrument. It becomes unbearable. But I believe that such an effect was in line with Coltrane's intentions... Coltrane is trying to evoke the voice of God at the Dawn of Creation in this track. But hearing the voice of God at the Dawn of Creation is much like confronting the face of God. This is going to be an awesome and overwhelming experience—which one can only take for so long. But I think there ought therefore to be some unbearability in the music as well —because one should neither really be able to look God full in the face, nor hear his voice without quailing somewhat. So then Om must be 'difficult'."[16]

Track listing[edit]

Side A
1."Om, Part 1"15:06
Side B
2."Om, Part 2"14:01

Note: while some CD configurations had "Om" as a single track, others kept the original LP record's two-track configuration.



  1. ^ Billboard Feb 3, 1968
  2. ^ a b Proefrock, Stacia. "John Coltrane: Om". Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  3. ^ Campbell, Hernan M. (25 April 2012). "Review: John Coltrane - Om | Sputnikmusic". Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  4. ^ Swenson, J., ed. (1985). The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide. USA: Random House/Rolling Stone. p. 47. ISBN 0-394-72643-X.
  5. ^ a b Om (liner notes). John Coltrane. Impulse!. 1968. A-9140.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  6. ^ a b Ratliff, Ben (2007). Coltrane: The Story of a Sound. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. 102.
  7. ^ Porter, Lewis; DeVito, Chris; Fujioka, Yasuhiro; Wild, David; Schmaler, Wolf (2008). The John Coltrane Reference. Routledge. p. 745. Coltrane reads from the Bhagavad-Gita, Chapter IX, 'The Yoga of Mysticism,' to open and close the performance. See, for example, The Song of God: Bhagavad-Gita, translated by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood (New York: Mentor, 1972), pp. 81–82. The Prabhavananda–Isherwood translation was originally published in 1944; Coltrane was most likely reading from this translation, as the wording is identical (other translations are slightly different).
  8. ^ Porter, Lewis; DeVito, Chris; Fujioka, Yasuhiro; Wild, David; Schmaler, Wolf (2008). The John Coltrane Reference. Routledge. p. 745.
  9. ^ Stoesz, David (September 28, 2010). "Coltrane, Live at 45". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
  10. ^ Lavezzoli, Peter (April 2006). The Dawn of Indian Music in the West: Bhairavi. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 285. Coltrane had begun using LSD during this time, in order to investigate its ability to access new levels of consciousness. It has long been rumored that Coltrane was under the influence of the drug while recording Om, and while this has never fully been corroborated, it would almost make sense, as the recording sounds disjointed and hallucinatory, almost as though Coltrane is not in full control of his normal faculties... the opening chant is followed by some of the most dissonant and paint-peeling shrieks on any Coltrane recording. Whether or not Coltrane was on LSD when recording this piece, it is perhaps not the most suitable for listening while on LSD, as the music communicates an intense feeling of unrest.
  11. ^ Porter, Lewis (1999). John Coltrane: His Life and Music. The University of Michigan Press. p. 265.
  12. ^ Porter, Lewis (1999). John Coltrane: His Life and Music. The University of Michigan Press. p. 333.
  13. ^ a b Nisenson, Eric (1995). Ascension: John Coltrane and His Quest. Da Capo Press. p. 183. ISBN 0-306-80644-4.
  14. ^ Erlewine, Michael; Bogdanov, Vladimir; Woodstra, Chris; Yanow, Scott, eds. (1996). All Music Guide to Jazz (2nd ed.). Miller Freeman. p. 166.
  15. ^ Mazzola, Guerino; Cherlin, Paul (2009). Flow, Gesture, and Spaces in Free Jazz: Towards a Theory of Collaboration. Springer. p. 26.
  16. ^ Weil, Simon (August 6, 2004). "Circling Om: An Exploration Of John Coltrane's Later Works". All About Jazz. Retrieved March 3, 2021.