Sunday 2 February 2020

Kromololodics #3 Coltrane got there first!

Following on from March 2018 and our examination of Sebastiaan DeKrom's concept of multi-layered chord sequences, a recent look at Resolution from A Love Supreme proves that John Coltrane was way ahead of us already in 1964:

On one level Resolution from A Love Supreme is the first eight of Bernie's Tune, dissolving into a one-chord minor improvisation. In the event this piece is incredibly ground-breaking and experimental. In the course of his solo, laying the spiritual aspect of the album aside for a moment, Coltrane returns to his preoccupation with a cadence into the key of Eb, which goes back to Blue Train and runs through Moments Notice, Lazy Bird and Giant Steps. In this it really does seem as if Coltrane likes to work out his concepts by improvising live on an important record date. There is nothing remotely 'licky' about his solo on Resolution. Each of his recorded performances of this piece sound completely different and fresh to our ears even now half a century later.

This extract from Resolution (5mins, 5 secs on the track) demonstrates that Coltrane is using the C7 altered scale (C# melodic minor) to resolve the eight-bar sections, but subtly changing his lines so that they can co-exist in a minor V-I in F (sax key) as well as a simultaneous progression following the sequence of Giant Steps, in its original key. The augmented nature of the 'altered' chord facilitate this. There is also a hint of the 'backdoor' resolution Bbm-Eb7 to F, together with its Giant Steps progressions. Coltrane is freestyling his lines, but also operating intellectually on two or three levels at once. Part of the magic and mystique of John Coltrane is that we still cannot exactly pinpoint his thought processes towards his musical goals. Coltrane's playing has inspired some people towards a totally free approach and others to seek a greater degree of structure in melodic construction. It is fascinating that different people transcribing a solo, like this extract from Resolution, could draw completely different conclusions from the notes. A chance decision to use sharps or flat, or the theoretical knowledge that the transcriber possesses could lead to a different result.