Today, exactly 50 years will have passed since the death of John Coltrane, one of the most revolutionary and technically gifted jazz musicians of all time. In his four decades on earth, Coltrane has lived and breathed to create jazz saturated with dissonance, arrhythmia and tenacity – raw jazz, powerful jazz, jazz with hundreds of stories.
To commemorate the half-century that has passed since Coltrane’s death, many will revisit his most famous songs (“My Favorite Things”, “In a Sentimental Mood”) and records (Giant step, supreme love, blue train). However, too few people will reflect on Coltrane’s most tenacious and inaccessible album, interstellar space, which was released posthumously and is in many ways Coltrane’s most influential record, its echoes are still heard today in everything from electronic music to some of the biggest hip-hop acts in the world. world.
Consisting of four tracks entitled “Mars”, “Venus”, “Jupiter” and “Saturn” (only later releases included two additional bonus tracks “Leo” and “Jupiter Variation”), the free jazz excursion from Coltrane and the drummer Rashied Ali is a centripetal force in sound. In an interview with The Quietus, Mika Vainio, film composer and one half of electronic duo Pan Sonic, went so far as to call the record “grindcore jazz” due to its “constant attack”. This characterization does not go far enough. It’s not a constant attack on the listener that Coltrane and Ali hope to achieve – they seek to transcend the limits of form. They don’t attack anyone. Their album is an inner exploration so intense and complex that it can be oppressive and overwhelming; sometimes listening interstellar space it’s like trying to cram the entire galaxy into your mind.
The record has inspired a number of artists and albums over time. Recently, this trend has occurred alongside the rise of Coltrane’s great-nephew, Steve Ellison, better known by his producer/stage name Flying Lotus. In 2008, Ellison started a label called Brainfeeder, which has been releasing Coltrane-influenced jazz, electro and hip hop for almost a decade. Kamasi Washington’s nearly four-hour album Epic, released on Brainfeeder in 2015, was a historic episode in modern music influenced by Coltrane. Like on interstellar space, many of The Epic’s tracks feature simultaneous soloing – two or more instruments playing at the same time – a technique that creates a bewildering and uplifting energy. The albums of Washington labelmate Stephen Bruner, who goes by the name Thundercat, also ring with interstellar spacethe influence of. Thundercat’s 2011 Album The golden age of the apocalypse and his 2017 album Drunk take Coltrane’s scale work and melt it into puddles of enharmonic bliss with profound authority.
But the most notable example of Coltrane’s influence on modern music comes outside of the jazz genre with Kendrick Lamar, who collaborated with Kamasi Washington on Pimp a butterfly, and who worked with Flying Lotus and Washington on later songs and records. Lamar’s samples on Butterfly seem to breathe and swoon, much like Coltrane playing the “Jupiter” out of interstellar space. Like Lamar’s delivery on Butterfly, Coltrane is frenetic and confusing while maintaining a superior sense of balance and control.
Which makes interstellar space so influential a lifetime after that of Coltrane? On the one hand, it is a landmark achievement in arrangement. Coltrane isn’t backed by anyone other than Ali on drums. The vast majority of Coltrane’s music incorporates at least the standard jazz quartet of horn, piano, bass, and drums, and some of his most famous albums feature as many as ten or twelve players on a single song. At interstellar space, Coltrane strips away the layers between horn and percussion, and the result is a jarring, unnerving dynamic that even the best jazz players were too intimidated to pursue.