Coltrane: The Search for a Higher State of Humanity

Kevin Le Gendre at the TLS:

Yet Coltrane’s commercial clout, transient or permanent, should not detract from his huge artistic stature. Next to Miles Davis, he is the post-war jazz musician most likely to be on the radar of those who do not consider themselves jazz fans. His allure as a figure entirely dedicated to, if not consumed by, his work (to the point where he was often seen in public with theory books such as Nicolas Slonimsky’s Thesaurus Of Scales And Melodic Patterns), makes him a role model for all students of “serious” music. Coltrane is the archetypal creative obsessive intent on finding unheard approaches to the building blocks of music, from the arc of his melodies to the rhythmic drive of his solos to the harmonic framework for his songs.

A trawl through the vast body of work he left behind (he died of liver cancer at the age of forty) reveals several signature pieces that typify his ability continually to break new musical ground. First, there is “Giant Steps”, a composition with a dizzying, spiral staircase of chord changes set to a vaulting high tempo that makes substantial demands on any rhythm section worth its salt.

more here.