Editor’s note: In this recurring column, music writer Chris Duncan suggests two albums to listen to this week. Have a suggestion? Send a tweet to @chr_dunc, and your pick might appear in next week’s Two Albums To Listen To.
A Love Supreme – John Coltrane
John Coltrane began his career as a hard-bop musician, incorporating rhythmic blues and gospel into his jazz. As his style evolved, however, avant-garde jazz made its way into his repertoire. The combination of the two sides of Coltrane is nowhere better represented than on A Love Supreme, his magnum opus.
Broken down into a four-part suite, A Love Supreme is a spiritual record that represents a struggle for personal purity. In Coltrane’s case, he believed that his tenor saxophone talents were not actually owned by him, but were instead passed through him by God for the world to experience.
This divine outlook is forefront in Coltrane’s music, flowing from a simple four-note theme during the album’s first movement, “Acknowledgement,” to a violent and thrashing sound in parts three and four, “Pursuance” and “Psalm.” The pure energy of A Love Supreme is enough to make it a must-listen, but Coltrane and his band members take each of their instruments to the next level with technique that few jazz instrumentalists can match.
Tracks to listen to: There are only four tracks — just listen to them all.
Moanin’ – Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
Raised by a family friend after the death of his single mother, Art Blakey was playing music full-time once he reached seventh grade. He was characterized by his aggressive style in both drumming and life — he once fought a Georgia police officer and sustained injuries so bad he was deemed unfit to serve in World War II. Fortunately for Blakey, this gave him the change to develop his aggressive style, eventually leading to moderate success as a solo drummer.
After taking a break from releases on Blue Note Records, Moanin’ marked a fresh start for Blakey. Joined by his backing group The Jazz Messengers, he started to hit his commercial stride, breaking out in a bombastic fashion.
Moanin’ is an archetype of hard bop, a sound that jazz musicians such as John Coltrane embraced. Blakey’s drumming grows to intense levels at times, but when he manages to stay sensible, Lee Morgan and Benny Golson, The Jazz Messengers’ trumpeter and sax player, find their shining moments as soloists.
Tracks to listen to: “Moanin’,” “Are You Real,” “Blues March”