well, i hope neil young will remember “Wise One” and “Lonnie’s Lament” are both beautiful ballads, actually quite similar in mood. 0:15: (The) innocent blood of these little girls may well serve as a redemptive (low notes) force for this city. I hope you can live with this unfinished resolution about “Alabama.” You can be sure that I’ll continue to think about and research this profound piece of music. And for whatever reason, the recording is missing the first paragraph, as well as two paragraphs in the middle, where Dr. King addressed the bereaved families. Coltrane is a saxophonist best known for writing and recording the song, "Alabama" which spoke to people's hearts following a devastating event sparked by racism. The third and fourth phrases are entirely composed of the notes Bb, C, D and Eb, played up and down, in and out, with C repeated at the end. where the skies are so blue a southern man don't need him around anyhow Listen online to John Coltrane - Alabama and see which albums it appears on. Check my website for updates on my research, performing and recording. This concludes my Deep Dive series at WBGO, as I turn my focus to shorter, more informal pieces that I’ll post elsewhere online. Because it’s difficult to fit the melody to the words, some people have said to me, “Maybe it’s not a syllabic setting — maybe it’s a vague impression of Dr. King’s speech. Just this past June, Ismail Muhammad, a critic from Oakland, Calif., wrote in The Paris Review that he totally “gets” the saxophone scream at the end of the recording: “Sometimes, you’d rather scream and storm than have to explain anything at all.”. That is not at all what is going on in “Psalm.”, Pieces Inspired by Words: The late French journalist Michel Delorme, having seen Coltrane’s poem in the liner notes to A Love Supreme, asked, “Do you often write poems?” Coltrane replied (in my translation): “From time to time; I try. It seems to me that, unlike “Psalm,” he might be embellishing some words with extra notes. So the fact that he recorded a piece called “Alabama” soon after the ghastly 1963 church bombing in Birmingham shows that he too had enough. It might seem that instrumental music, lacking words, would not be the most effective medium for a statement of outrage. lord, i'm coming home to you John Coltrane - tenor sax McCoy Tyner - piano Jimmy Garrison - bass Elvin Jones - drums "Alabama" is a tribute to four children killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, an attack at a Birmingham, Alabama church by white supremecists on September 15, 1963. sweet home alabama So, let’s add “The Drum Thing,” “Attaining,” “Song of Praise” and possibly “Acknowledgement” to the list of pieces where Coltrane chants his poetry on the saxophone. I also suspect that one reason the opening of the tenor solo on “Acknowledgement” is similar from take to take is that he had words in mind, say, from 0:59 to 1:15 on the original album version. This is a section of Steve Rowland's radio documentary "Tell Me How Long Trane's Been Gone". Alabama (Live At Birdland Jazzclub, New York City, NY, 10/18/1963) John Coltrane. in birmingham they love the governor But after that, the style is not the chanting style. John Coltrane; Alabama Lyrics John Coltrane – Alabama. 3), A Deep Dive into John Coltrane's 'A Love Supreme' by His Biographer Lewis Porter (Pt. Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary (Original Soundtrack) John Coltrane. i miss alabamy once again McCoy Tyner and John Coltrane at New Jersey's Van Gelder studios in 1963. Credit Joe Alper / Joe Alper Photo Collection LLC, Chuck Stewart / Courtesy of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, A Deep Dive into John Coltrane's 'A Love Supreme' by His Biographer, Lewis Porter (Pt. But here’s what I have so far (words in parentheses are not played). If I’m right, this and only this article — not a complete transcript, not an audio recording — is what Coltrane had access to in the two months between the funeral on Sept. 18 and the recording of “Alabama” on Nov. 18. 4.9 out of 5 stars 38. That’s as far as I’ve gotten at the moment. where the skies are so blue 0:30: We must not despair (extra notes on “despair”), we must not become bitter. now watergate does not bother me Install the free Online Radio Box application for your smartphone and listen to your favorite radio stations online - wherever you are! In fact, we might call these “Pieces with Hidden Texts.”, When our late friend Delorme asked John about poems, his full response was, “…certain pieces on the album Crescent are also poems, like ‘Wise One,’ ‘Lonnie’s Lament,’ ‘The Drum Thing.’”. sweet home alabama Although originally issued on the long player Live At Birdland (1963), “Alabama” is one of two sides (the other being “Your Lady”) from a mid-November, 1963 studio session. On this tragic date, four members of the Ku Klux Klan planted at least fifteen sticks of dynamite … He hated to be didactic or condescending. well, i heard ole neil put her down A Deep Dive into an immortal song, recorded 57 years ago. John Coltrane quotes God breathes through us so completely... so gently we hardly feel it... yet, it is our everything. Maybe that’s why it’s hard to match it to the words.” But this makes no sense, because there’s nothing vague about the music. A Love Supreme was still a year away. And, on a later album, “Attaining” is perhaps the closest to “Psalm” of any piece I know. sweet home alabama I take it that Coltrane means he likes to “proceed” from the poem to the music — that is, to write the poem first, as he did for “Psalm.” And he finds that to be a “good approach” to composing, because instead of abstractly poking around and waiting for a melody to hit you, a poem can lead in several ways to a piece of music. lord, i'm coming home to you Live at Birdland is an album by jazz musician John Coltrane, released in January 1964 by Impulse! It was written in response to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing on September 15, 1963, an attack by the Ku Klux Klan in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four girls. John Coltrane, photographed in his backyard in Queens, New York in 1963. Recording session on March 4, 1963. In this era when it has been necessary to affirm that Black Lives Matter, John Coltrane’s powerful piece “Alabama” feels more relevant and urgent than ever. But I don’t think that’s significant. Scrobble songs and get recommendations on other tracks and artists. For their help with this post, I would like to thank the following kind people: Meghan Weaver, Research Assistant at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University; Steve Rowland, co-producer (with Larry Abrams) of the award-winning 5-hour radio series Tell Me How Long Trane’s Been Gone; and Medd Typ Persson for our discussion. does your conscience bother you He was in Buffalo, N.Y., on the day of the bombing. Was he concerned that there might be more violence to come? i miss alabamy once again. sweet home alabama ), When the quartet performed the new song just a few weeks after its studio recording, for Ralph Gleason’s public television show Jazz Casual, Gleason announces it as “Alabama.” (This was first broadcast in 1964, but Gleason’s late widow Jean told me years ago that it was recorded on Dec. 7, 1963. and the governor's true But Coltrane moved around so much that he could easily have seen one of the hundreds of papers that carried Harwell’s piece. Watch the video for Alabama from John Coltrane's Ken Burns Jazz for free, and see the artwork, lyrics and similar artists. (In fact, I wonder if Coltrane was more shaken up by the news of the bombing than he let on. Coltrane was inspired by Martin Luther King’s speech, delivered in the church sanctuary three days after the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, and patterned his saxophone playing on it. But we don’t have the texts. Is it worthwhile hunting around to find the poem that inspired “Wise One”? and they've been known to pick a song or two As I’ve already noted, that’s the way John was. sweet home alabama So here I am with further observations that are mostly not in my book John Coltrane: His Life and Music. The piece is approximately five minutes in length. Ever since it became known, partly through my work, that on “Psalm,” Coltrane is reading his poem “A Love Supreme” on the saxophone, people have been trying to find words to other pieces of his. where the skies are so blue Inserted into Coltrane’s 1964 album Live at Birdland, it’s a studio track that confounds the virtuosic post-bop bliss of the album’s first three tracks, live recordings that include a jittery rendition of Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue.”. lord they get me off so much Records. singing songs about the southland. :lynard skynard Blue Train (Expanded Edition) John Coltrane. The album's original … This is the longest that I ever wrote but certain pieces on the album Crescent are also poems… I sometimes proceed in this manner because it’s a good approach to musical composition.”. Despite its title, only the first three tracks were recorded live at the Birdland club; the rest are studio tracks. Well, John’s pianist McCoy Tyner, whom we lost this year, once told Ashley Kahn that the rhythms of the piece were based on the rhythms of a speech by Dr. King that John saw printed in a newspaper. Coltrane, a genius from jazz’s golden age, died in 1967 at the age of 40. Or a poem can indeed become the lyrics for a song. This is interesting! So Tyner knew before Dec. 7 that this was a response to the bombing in Birmingham on Sept. 15 — and it’s easy to imagine him talking with John about it, and learning that it was based on a newspaper report of Dr. King’s moving eulogy for the four murdered girls. In 2020, many people who had previously been silent finally had enough and made themselves heard, on the streets and online. The reporters wrote down what they heard: in those days, taking quick notes, sometimes using the “shorthand” system, was required. they pick me up when i'm feeling blue Harwell had written a few more paragraphs at the end, describing the funeral, but not all papers included that part, and anyway that part had no additional quotations from Dr. King. Admittedly, we don’t know which newspapers he saw, but in those two months he also had two separate weeks off, and I’m willing to bet that he came across this article himself while traveling or while at home in New York (in Manhattan then and now, there were shops that sold out-of-town newspapers), or a friend showed it to him or even mailed it to him. :lynard skynard. Every song on the Ballads album, for instance, originally had lyrics. And it may be the only time that he used someone else’s words — as far as we know, from this point on, whenever he used words to help compose a piece, they were words that he wrote himself. here i come alabama He did not tell anyone in the studio, including the members of his legendary quartet McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison, what the tune is about. Then again, he only had these isolated quotes, not the full text of the speech, so it was up to him to make them into something coherent. Without knowing the poem that Coltrane intended, one cannot possibly guess at the text. Coltrane was a man who chose to keep his political opinions to himself; he once famously declined to give an opinion when pressed about hearing Malcolm X speak. But please don’t waste your time trying to fit existing poems to this music. John Coltrane - tenor sax McCoy Tyner - piano Jimmy Garrison - bass Elvin Jones - drums "Alabama" is a tribute to four children killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, an attack at a Birmingham, Alabama church by white supremecists on September 15, 1963. Or did he simply always buy travel insurance — it was, and still is, an option on every flight — making it a coincidence that the only one we have a record of is this one? sweet home alabama Notice that you can see Alice Coltrane sitting in a chair on the left side of the screen.). My book John Coltrane: His Life and Music begins with A Love Supreme. It winds its way toward a theme but always stops just short, repeatedly approaching something like coherence only to turn away at the last moment. As I continued to listen with fresh ears, I thought I heard him jumping around to different parts of the article, and even repeating some phrases. The band played five takes of the moving piece of music, of which the last one found its way into … And the style of the piece absolutely does sound like a recitation. In fact, I thought we’d only need two, but whenever I take a Deep Dive, I always come up with “pearls” I hadn’t anticipated. $9.49. The answer is simple: by listening! On Monday, Sept. 16, 1963, the day after the bombing, he mailed a $100,000 Mutual of Omaha Travel Accident Insurance Policy to his mother in Philadelphia, before taking off on a flight to his next gig in Cleveland. Let’s start there. Lewis Porter is the author of acclaimed books on John Coltrane, Lester Young and jazz history, and has taught at institutions including Rutgers and The New School. Alabama (John Coltrane song) "Alabama" is a composition written by John Coltrane that appears on his album Live at Birdland (1963). Working in the bebop and hard bop idioms early in his career, Coltrane helped pioneer the use of modes and was at the forefront of free jazz. now we all did what we could do This is followed by the improvisation, marked by Garrison’s walking bass. It was written in response to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing on September 15, 1963, an attack by the Ku Klux Klan in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four African-American girls. The video below shows the John Coltrane Quartet playing “Alabama.” For example, the Times wrote, “Good still has a way of growing out of evil,” whereas Harwell wrote, “God still has a way of bringing good out of evil.” But what Dr. King actually said, according to his typescript, is: “God still has a way of wringing good out of evil.”. I also heard him adding notes at the ends of some phrases. John Coltrane. carry me home to see my kin But here’s the answer: I found that excerpts of the speech were quoted in many newspapers around the USA on Sept. 19, 1963, the day after the funeral. sweet home alabama. But Coltrane’s message comes through loud and clear. 1), 10 Books Highlighting the History of Racial Injustice and Resistance in Jazz. Personally, I do — why discount what he said? Well, first of all, do we believe Tyner or not? "Alabama" is a song written by John Coltrane that appears on his album Live at Birdland. 2), A Deep Dive into John Coltrane's 'A Love Supreme' by His Biographer, Lewis Porter (Pt. I’m not yet certain how he rearranged the words. lord, i'm coming home to you And if it were just a vague impression, why not embellish it, add a note here and there, as he always did on every ballad he ever played? Also, it sounds to me like Coltrane is chanting something on “Song of Praise,” at the beginning on the short 1964 version that was issued years later (significantly, recorded at the same sessions as most of Crescent), and on the originally released version from 3:40 to 5:40 (the theme statement after the long bass solo, on The John Coltrane Quartet Plays). And as we’ll see, “Alabama” is the top candidate for that. A Deep Dive into an immortal song, recorded 57 years ago. Probably not, for two significant reasons: First, as we’ll explore here, “Alabama” is the only known instance where Coltrane took someone else’s poem or text and played it on his saxophone. On those, it seems that Coltrane used his poems as inspiration, because these are not “readings” of poems, so I would put them in the middle category. 'Alabama' is a composition written by John Coltrane that appears on his album Live at Birdland (1963). yea, yea montgomery's got the answer Stream ad-free or purchase CD's and MP3s now on Amazon.com. Unless Coltrane’s son, the noted saxophonist Ravi, discovers clearly titled, handwritten pieces of paper with these poems, we will never ever know all the words Coltrane had in mind for these pieces. But in hunting for words to Coltrane’s compositions, people have often confused three different musical situations: Songs with Lyrics, Pieces Inspired by Words, and Pieces with Hidden Texts. now muscle shoals has got the swampers After the saxophone solo, the entire recitation is repeated, but this time after “Not walk alone,” I hear Coltrane exclaim, screaming with passion on high notes: They did not die – they did not die in VAIN….IN VAIN…, (This is followed by a cascade of improvised notes, and the second “In Vain” is not played on the televised performance.). I have not yet managed to fit the words to every phrase in the music. In this era when it has been necessary to affirm that Black Lives Matter, John Coltrane’s powerful piece “Alabama” feels more relevant and urgent than ever. and i think its a sin, yes now how about you ,qq 40884815, Download John Coltrane - Alabama free mp3, a southern man don't need him around anyhow, and they've been known to pick a song or two, LOCOMOTION - ENHANCED CD VERSION;1996 DIGITAL REMASTER, MY FAVORITE THINGS (LIVE AT THE HALF NOTE '63), STORM (EUROVISION 2019 - ESTONIA / KARAOKE VERSION), ONLY TO BE WITH YOU (LIVE AT HARMONIE BONN, 20.10.2005). (www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiJ_0gp-T9A) Written by John Coltrane … What do we know about its genesis, and why is there this pervasive opinion that it has a hidden text? Without knowing the texts involved, how can one determine the likely relationship between text and music? On the TV performance he does the same. The John Coltrane Quartet’s “Alabama” is a strange song, incongruous with the rest of the album on which it appears. (This appears on page 79 of Ashley’s 2002 book A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album.) ), 1:20: (Softly, mournfully — the band goes along with the rhythm that he conducts with his head). That was the day that I decided I had to write about Coltrane. Third, it seems that if and when it was broadcast, it was many years later, most likely, not even during Dr. King’s all-too-short lifetime, but excerpted in the many radio and film documentaries that came later. John William Coltrane (September 23, 1926 – July 17, 1967) was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. We’ve covered a lot of ground in the previous two installments of our look into A Love Supreme. While he wasn’t known as an overtly political artist, he played in a number of civil rights benefit events and at anti-war rallies. The lyrical, wide ranging melody of “Wise One,” to choose one example, is nothing like the chanting back and forth on a few notes found in “Psalm,” and he plays it differently the second time (starting at 1:37). Why exactly three? And the entire sax part sounds like a chant. None of the other lines of the text fit so well to the music. Pieces with Hidden Texts: The third category concerns pieces that involve “reading” some words, like “Psalm,” with a one-syllable-at-a-time chanting style. After all, this was very likely the first time that he set words to a saxophone line. The answer is Yes! carry me home to see my kin. 4.7 out of 5 stars 5. Enjoy the videos and music you love, upload original content, and share it all with friends, family, and the world on YouTube. In 2020, many people who had previously been silent finally had enough and made themselves heard, on the streets and online. So what does this say about the claim that Coltrane based “Alabama” on Dr. King’s words? The last three notes at 1:19 and 2:43 and 8:59 say “Attaining.” The last six notes at 2:54 and 10:30 say “Thank you Lord” and “Amen.” After that he plays freely — please listen carefully and notice the difference between his “chanting” and his free soloing. 0:05: God still has a way (of) bringing good (longer note for “good”) out of evil — they did not die in vain. The critic Francis Davis spoke with Tyner and Jones and learned that Coltrane did not tell them the inspiration for the piece, or even its name, when they recorded it in the studio on Nov. 18, 1963. Studio 41 at 15 Vanderbilt Avenue, CBS studios at Grand Central Terminal. well i heard mister young sing about her Among them is "Alabama", a tribute to four children killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, an attack at a Birmingham, Alabama church by white supremacists. lord, i'm coming home to you The latter appeared in many papers, but I chose to reproduce the one from High Point, N.C., the city where Coltrane grew up; his family moved there when he was an infant. Second, my research indicates that the speech was definitely not broadcast “live,” but was recorded locally, on location. (I haven’t fit words for 0:42 to 1:20 yet. Of course, The New York Times and other major papers had their own reports, and typically they quoted two or three sentences of Dr. King’s eulogy. (We know what he said because we have his written text.) John Coltrane, known and beloved by his fans as simply Trane, died in 1967 at age 40 from liver cancer. big wheels keep on turning. The Gentle Side Of John Coltrane John Coltrane. where the skies are so blue For example, as in “Psalm,” the music can be a syllabic setting of the poem. (Yes, in the old days people often threw out the pieces of tape that they cut out during editing; even engineers editing jazz albums were known to do that.). In my previous installment of Deep Dive, I discussed my personal history with A Love Supreme, and examined John Coltrane’s own planning notes for the suite. Second, with pieces in this middle area — inspired by words, but not chanting them one syllable at a time— there are literally thousands of texts that might seem to vaguely fit. Songs with Lyrics are the most straightforward. Song information for Alabama - John Coltrane on AllMusic. But one Hoyt Harwell wrote a more detailed report for the Associated Press (AP), the independent news cooperative that covers events for the many small newspapers (at that time about 1,800 of them) that couldn’t afford to employ a staff of reporters. Check out Alabama by John Coltrane on Amazon Music. and i think its a sin, yes. He’s also a pianist whose latest album — Transcendent, a collaboration with guitarist Ray Suhy — is out on Sunnyside Records. There are also pieces somewhere between the above two options: music that follows the mood or flow or phraseology of the words — but that makes no attempt to represent the words one syllable at a time, nor breaks into full-blown song. I should add, in response to some questions, that I had heard the piece many times before that day in 1978 when I suddenly understood the last movement and decided to write about it. John Coltrane’s Civil Rights elegy “Alabama” first appeared on Live at Birdland (1964), though it was recorded in Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on November 18, 1963 – three months after the dramatic events surrounding the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing of September 15, 1963. So I began to listen again, and immediately I heard Coltrane start by saying: “They did not die in vain”! Between that day and the recording, he performed in Cleveland and New York City, toured Europe, and performed in Philadelphia. I’m certain that Coltrane is chanting a text here, even though I haven’t fully figured it out yet. On the afternoon of November 18, 1963 John Coltrane went into Rudy Van Gelder’s Studio in Englewood Cliffs, NJ and recorded the tune Alabama. well i heard mister young sing about her. lordy singing songs about the southland Then the sound of John Coltrane’s saxophone writhes on top: mournful, melismatic, menacing. Like the speech, “Alabama” shifts its tone from one of mourning to one of renewed determination for the struggle against racially motivated crimes. Thanks to youtube, however, you can still hear him perform. And of course, it’s possible that John added some words of his own, or slightly reworded things. The melody is supposedly based on the speech patterns of Martin Luther King, Jr's eulogy. For just one example, notice that the first phrase ends with three Cs (at 0:11). But he transcended the protest music of the 1960s. sweet home alabama One day in 1978, I “heard” Coltrane reciting the poem in Part IV, “Psalm,” and it blew my mind. See the first half of the Times article and compare it with Harwell’s story. Playing in this extremely limited range is not singing a melody; it’s chanting, unmistakably. Some have said to me: maybe Tyner was wrong, and Coltrane’s inspiration was a radio broadcast of the eulogy. Besides “Psalm,” are there in fact other examples of Coltrane “speaking words” to us on the saxophone? Check out Alabama (Live At Birdland Jazzclub, New York City, NY, 10/18/1963) by John Coltrane on Amazon Music. sweet home alabama If it’s a vague impression, why not fool around with it, play whatever you feel like? Stay healthy and safe! I too would like to believe that Tyner was right about this. I’m basing my analysis on Harwell’s article because, even though Coltrane probably saw the Times, it did not have as many quotes from Dr. King. In general, when Coltrane is playing fast notes, or quick little embellishments, we can assume that he’s not thinking of words. No Comments; 0 Tags; Moonlight and magnolia, starlight in your hair All the world a dream come true Did it really happen, was I really there, was I really there with you? Serpentine. And his article has more substantial quotes. But what about “Alabama”? John Coltrane. John Coltrane composed Alabama as a reflection on Dr Martin Luther King's eulogy for four little African-American girls murdered by the KKK in Birmingham Alabama on Sep 15,1963. In short, I think we need to forget about the theory that Coltrane “learned” the speech from the radio. big wheels keep on turning Since then, people have been searching without success for a text that will fit the melody in that way. $7.99. However, on the third piece, I distinctly hear Coltrane say on his saxophone “The drum thing” at the end of the opening (2:07) and closing (7:08). Well, there is surely enough there to work with, and he had two months to think about it, work on it, and reorder the excerpts. Dr. Clayborne Carson, in his collection of King’s speeches titled A Call to Conscience, notes that those portions were cut out of the original tape for a radio broadcast, and apparently discarded. So even though we don’t know the text of “Wise One” — and as we’ll see shortly, according to Coltrane, there was one — we can feel sure in saying it’s not a syllabic setting of a poem. The evidence that they worked from notes is that they came up with slightly different versions of what Dr. King said. The poem had to be personal to him, to be truly one with the music he was writing — not from someone else’s experience. Jazz saxophonist John Coltrane was deeply affected by the crime and recorded Alabama just a few months afterward, along with the members of his quartet, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones. sweet home alabama $1.29. Please understand, this could mean nothing, but I think it’s worth considering. 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