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JOHN COLTRANE - KULU SE MAMA
Impulse / ABC
Blue Green Label (see pic)
Record: VG++ (listen to our copy)
Cover is VG+ VG++ with minor ring wear and cornerwear (see our picture)
1. KULU SE MAMA (JUNO SE MAMA)
There are Coltrane enthusiasts and then there are Coltrane enthusiasts. Since Trane was an artist whose style changed dramatically at least 4 or 5 times in his career, there are jazz fans who like only one or two or three of Trane's periods and can't stand his others.
The critical consensus is that his work from 1965 till his death in 1967 is the most controversial. It is during this period that Trane, who came up through traditional jazz forms, moved deeper and deeper into free jazz. The beauty of the Kulu Se Mama LP is that it is informed by Trane's study of free form styles, but it is sufficiently structured so as to avoid derailing entirely into atonal, unmetered chaos.
The title track is sublime with Juno Lewis's singing and percussion giving the tune shape while the horns piano and drums around him explore and radically push the envelope of the simple folk melody. This is a track where African flavored folk, hard bop, modal and free form jazz not only converge but converge successfully--it is a work of true and "new thing" beauty. "Vigil" is a duet between Trane and the classic Quartet's drummer Elvin Jones.
The track is intense and intentionally not serene (the liner notes tell us that Trane meant the track as an encouragement to be vigilant against forces that are spiritually damaging and one can hear just such a struggle in Coltrane's playing). "Welcome" is a beautifully serene melody.
This is tranquil music that doesn't belong in an elevator as the classic Quartet lays down one of its most conventionally beautiful tracks. Typical of this period in Coltrane's career, the theme is short and discarded rather quickly and the band moves into an open form exploration of the line-up's potential.
I believe this is an essential Coltrane album. For the value of the title track alone, no modern jazz collection is complete without this album. I value it above Ascension and Meditations.