In the years leading up to his death in 1967, John Coltrane released a series of albums, and also recorded a series of sessions that would ultimately be released posthumously. These efforts illustrate the progression from his classic quartet period to a jarring avant-garde approach that was influenced by Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman, and Albert Ayler. A Love Supreme is Coltrane’s best-known album and marks the ends of his classic quartet, while Meditations is a fitting example of his explorations thereafter that were cut short.
A Love Supreme Electric consists of a supergroup of sorts, with Vinny Golia on sax, John Hanrahan on drums, Henry Kaiser on guitar, Wayne Peet on piano and keys, and Mike Watt on bass. This 2-CD reimagining of A Love Supreme and Meditations is their expansive tribute to Coltrane’s legacy.
The iconic four-note theme of Acknowledgement kicks off the former album, with the group capturing the spirituality and drive of the recording. But rather than doing a full-on set of covers, the group blends familiarity with the new. In particular, Kaiser’s dueling with Golia adds new layers while remaining true to Coltrane’s general vision. Indeed, Kaiser seems to be trying to answer the question of what would have happened had Coltrane survived to collaborate with rock and fusion guitarists of the early 1970’s.
Meditations is more heady and psychedelic, with heavy textures from Peet and slides from Kaiser accompanying Golia’s soloing. The group explores and goes outside more frequently, merging free-improv stylings of the last several decades. These open-ended excursions are often centered around or smoothly evolve from Coltrane’s original charts. Notably, the inside-out sax theme of The Father and The Son and The Holy Ghost is adapted into a full-group multiphonic blowout.
Tribute efforts like this one can be hit or miss. A Love Supreme Electric manages to hit on all cylinders, providing an authentic and respectful reworking that also speculates on where Coltrane would have gone in the future. Well done.