Revisiting Coltrane's 'Supreme'

As desert island discs go, saxophonist John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" is reserved for those who book a special atoll. Famously variegated, the 1964 album has long enchanted and confounded musicians and laymen.

Author Ashley Kahn, who last led readers down memory lane revisiting the making of the moody (and more listener-friendly) Miles Davis classic "Kind of Blue," was in town to discuss his latest backward glance: "A Love Supreme: The Making of John Coltrane's Signature Album." (Viking Press, $27.95). Kahn's "guest soloist," at Book Soup's packed-to-the-rafters Addendum annex, was Coltrane's son Ravi, a saxophonist and startling doppelganger, there to flesh out legend and correct conjecture.

Musicians, music teachers, passers-by parked themselves along the book stacks to listen. Kahn first sketched his complicated history with the album, confessing that he was really on a run for Mott the Hoople and that the Coltrane album was an impulse buy. Later, he said, it was "glued to my turntable."

Kahn's feelings about the album, its marriage of the "technical and the spiritual" -- mirrored those of admirers who now claim it to be, if not their inspiration, their guiding force -- John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana, to name two.

But it was Ravi Coltrane's story of his personal epiphany with his father's defining work, its role in leading him down a musician's path, that had all leaning forward in their chairs.

"People hear the saxophone -- a shriek, a honk, " says Coltrane, adjusting his wire-rimmed glasses. "For me, I don't hear it as anger. And I never have. It's a language. Music is a language and it is so abstract. And he was someone who [was] trying to do so much, say so much ... You have to know the lineage. What came before ... there are tunes that are about his belief in God. This guy, my father, was very in touch with his humanity and in touch with his higher power. God."

"A genius?" someone asks.

The younger Coltrane replies: "The vision is important. But it didn't come out of the sky. It was something they all worked for."

-- Lynell George


Ground zero talk

The architectural and political implications of rebuilding at ground zero will be tackled on Sunday at the Orange County Museum of Art by Max Protetch, owner of the New York art gallery that bears his name.

Protetch's new book, "A New World Trade Center," documents an exhibition he initiated after Sept. 11 to address issues surrounding rebuilding, and he has been a key part of the dialogue in New York City focusing on any future use of the site.

The exhibition included contributions from such architecture figures as Michael Graves, Zaha Hadid, Steven Holl, Coop Himmelblau and Frei Otto.

Protetch's talk is at 2 p.m. at the museum, 850 San Clemente Drive, Newport Beach. Info: (949) 759-1122.

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