REVIEW: ‘A Love Supreme’ for our times

On the eve of the Summer Solstice, while thousands of yogis practiced sun salutations at New York’s Times Square, a different kind of spiritual devotion was taking place across the pond.

In London, a re-envisioning of John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’ was performed by a multicultural 16-piece ensemble in The Chapel of King’s College. The original album was recorded in 1964 by John Coltrane’s quartet, making the new arrangement with additional instruments and electronics a challenging undertaking in itself.

‘Sacred Music: Sacred Spaces – A Love Supreme’ was the brainchild of Paul Bradshaw, editor of the highly acclaimed independent music magazine ‘Straight No Chaser’, which sadly went out of circulation in 2007.

It took Bradshaw two years to make ‘Sacred Music: Sacred Spaces’ a reality, amalgamating some of Britain’s most revered and talented musicians. Re-arranged by Rowland Sutherland and under the musical direction of Orphy Robinson, this bold re-interpretation included a kora, vibraphone, bata drums and Indian instruments – paying homage to Alice Coltrane’s spiritual connection to Hinduism.

Before the performance began, Bradshaw explained that John Coltrane’s original ‘A Love Supreme’ was written at a time of political turmoil – the assassination of JFK, the Vietnam War and civil riots. This contemporary version was like an offering to heal our own tumultuous times, appealing to the divine in all of us – a feast for our souls.

In the elaborately adorned interior of The Chapel, ‘Sacred Music: Sacred Spaces – A Love Supreme’ was an awesome and transcendental experience that stayed true to the term ‘spiritual jazz’. The 90-minute performance was noticably different to the original recording with all the different instruments, making it a musical force in its own right – showcasing the powerful musicianship of everyone on show.  I stayed to watch two performances, and to describe the evening as ‘deep’ merely scratches the surface. It was by every means a stark reminder of John Coltrane’s interminable musical legacy and a celebration of London’s richly diverse jazz scene.

Arrangements: Rowland Sutherland, Musical Director: Orphy Robinson

Musicians: Ansuman Biswas melodic Indian instruments Crispin Robinson, Dave Pattman, Olli Savill bata drums + percussion, Juwon Ogunbe voice Mosi Conde kora / harp, Nikki Yeoh piano, Orphy Robinson vibes / steel pan / marimba, Neil Charles contra bass, Pat Thomas electronics, Rowland Sutherland flute, Richard Spaven drums, Steve Williamson saxophones, Shabaka Hutchins bass clarinet.

Photo credit: Alex Coley