A Love Supreme

Ernest Boehm
6 min readJan 29, 2023

2023 The Year of Song and Verse №3

For Sara L

Well I guess a book I am going to have to read…

A Love Supreme is the greatest jazz quartet album by John Coltrane.

A Love Supreme is the greatest jazz album.

A Love Supreme is the greatest album.

A Love Supreme is the Greatest.


I’d rather listen to Coltrane than go through the shit again.

~ Sun Comes Up It’s Tuesday Morning. ~ Michael Timmins

I consider A Love Supreme work of poetry and a religious work. John Coltrane has made one of the most profound ensemble works in all of music as complex as works of Richard Strauss or Bach he has the intellect, uncompromising exactitude of in execution and style, and his signature sound as both a performer and a composer that rivals the greatest of composers, he makes jazz symphonic as well as a work of poetry. A poem with three words but countless verses of sound.

It is a work of poetry verse in sound, it covers themes and balances form with a unique language of sound. Coltrane like a poet takes his title and elaborates on it. It does circle around the words A Love Supreme in sonic patterns and rhythm and this serves as a backbone to the work. The title of the piece and the sections are captured and given form in melody and rhythm.

The Quartet is integrated, balanced and the musicians have a singular purpose but each musician has unique and separate communication with the listener.

The triple hearted rhythm section includes Elvin Jones’ drums, Jimmy Garrison's bass and the fills and left hand bass cord progressions of McCoy Tyner.

All have solos in various places but the most remarkable may be Garrison's final surprise solo a the end of Part III, it seems like the song has ended then Garrison solo reminds of A Love Supreme theme as a melodic bass line. He also ends Part I. Garrison’s bass solos are ethereal and hauntingly filled with the longing of humanity. I think his final solo at the end of Part III is my favorite part of the recording.

Tyner’s right hand melodies as sophisticated as his left hands cords. He plays melody with Coltrane on his right while playing with rhythm section on the left in a way unique to music. He is maybe the most integrated player of the session, his fills and solos are both treated with an absolute care but also with a feeling of effortlessness. I also love how the recording brings his piano evenly balanced with bass and drums.

Elvin Jones drums are sophisticated and interplay with all the other musicians, the Part III would be impossible without his genius, he weaves between the other players joining each one then moving to work with the next. The great contrast is when Garrison who is synchronized with Jones has his solo, the absence of Jones creates a loneliness and a human singularity in Garrison solo. Jones has to balance both Garrison and Tyner, he does this in maybe the greatest drum performance in Jazz. He has his major solo in Part III, yet his drum fills are both melodic and rhythmic. While playing in Part III it feels like Jones is playing a solo at the same time that he is at one with the ensemble.

Coltrane performance is genius in how he communicates this poem of notes to the world. To have composed a suite of symphonic beauty incorporated and extended jazz to a poetic and religious work. His sound his breathy notes followed by solid tones, his solos are most singular and controlled he is the faith to Garrison’s haunting longing. Genius of Coltrane is throughout but his beauty and elegance lives in Part I and Part IV. He gets the first and final say in A Love Supreme. Again his solos stand out while playing above the ensemble a singular voice rising out of the chorus. Coltrane is melody and tone personified, he speaks through this instrument a poet of sound.

Part I -Acknowledgement starts with cords, cymbals and piano in non melodic tones. Then Garrison begins to play the theme of A Love Supreme. The Piano and drums support the theme as Coltrane comes in. There seeds to be a confrontation of Coltrane's Solo over the variations and rhythms underneath his higher register. The undertones are earth bound while the tones above are one of struggle and contention. The horn part becomes strained and stressed, like the impossibility of not acknowledging what is in front of you. Then the tone of the horn softens and Coltrane begins to play variation on A Love Supreme theme. Then he begins a repetitive and more distinct phrasing before he begins to chant the words A Love Supreme. Then we fade into wonderful piano and drums. Then Garrison begins a wonderful end solo on the theme on bass.

Part II — Resolution begins with Garrison's earthy bass sound. Coletrane comes in with drums and piano chords into a solo of conviction and resolution. He seems driving in this phrasing. Coltrane softly drops out and Tyner solo of pure genius with heavy chords on the left and grace, runs and melody on the right. The left is so in sync with bass and drums that it is like a third line of percussion. He then drops in procession and comes into unity with Garrison and Jones. Coltrane now plays on top of this unity. His solo now is strained then resolves into sweetness, it seems moving forward with conviction, a force resolved to move forward in its aim. While this goes on Jones drums become ever more complicated as the bass and piano fall back. Then Coltrane relaxes as the point of resolution moves on to pursuit of the aim.

Part III — Pursuance is born in the impossibility of Elvin Jones Drum Solo, few moments of sophistication have been rivaled in music. Coltrane starts with his least strained solo and quickly give over to a short solo by Tyner, this is the most off theme and independent solo of Tyner's, he moves from melody to interplay of rhythm and melody, coming in and out of Garrison’s and Jones’ rhythm line. Coltrane takes over Tyner’s melody with force and pursuit of the ideal. It is not the A Love Supreme’s central theme but a new theme of pursuit beyond resolution alone. Jones explodes during this theme. His drums matching Coltrane's intensity and accelerando. Jones and Coltrane unification at this part is truly unrivaled in music. Tyner in a way becomes the drummer with heavy chords. Garrison shows some restraint making room for the other three. The drum work is just amazing Jones is Coltrane's rival and companion on this ride. The fire on the drums. And then the surprise solo of Garrison, bring back the A Love Supreme theme stating for all other things that it is the most important, and musically all the rest must be subservient to it. It is a moment of magic in composition and performance. Garrison solos are truly lonely and strike main theme. He is the theme that cannot be forgotten.

Part IV — Psalm is rolling waves of sounds from the rhythm section. Upward aim chords from the piano. Coltrane solo is Psalm, a sacred song, that flows over the rhythm line. Jones cymbals form the rising waves as his drums form the troughs. Coltrane resolves in an interplay with Tyner’s piano as he forms circular chord progression and Jones’ cymbals disappear and he catches Tyner bottom roles with lower drums sounds. More controlled symbols then play with Coltrane sacred song and Tyner's Piano. Garrison plays wonderful fills in support of this effort. This is Psalm in form, this is a Psalm in spirit, and a Psalm in performance.

Part I — Acknowledgement 0:00

Part II — Resolution 7:42

Part III — Pursuance 15:02

Part IV — Psalm 25:44


John Coltrane — bandleader, liner notes, vocals, soprano and tenor saxophone

Jimmy Garrison — double bass

Elvin Jones — drums

McCoy Tyner — piano