Cosmic Jazz Countdown – No. 2


Derek: Carmen Lundy is a jazz singer, actress and painter. She has been singing over three decades performing largely self-penned material and has released a total of 11 recordings on which she has worked with an impressive range of jazz musicians. Yet is she as well known or celebrated in the UK as she should be? Her last performance in the UK was in 2007 and although she has been to Europe each year, since there have been no performances in the UK and none are scheduled so far for 2011.

For listeners to Cosmic Jazz, however, Carmen Lundy is no stranger. The Old Devil Moon album and, in particular, the song You’re Not in Love, has been played several times. It is simply a great tune, a melody which leaves you wanting to play just it again and then sing it to yourself once it is finished. The lyrics are a strong put down of a man. Carmen Lundy’s vocals make these emotions clear but in a way that you know she is in control, her voice is firm, definite but still enticing.

The musicians are pretty fine too. UK drummer Winston Clifford is a good choice but special mention should go to Randy Brecker on flugelhorn and – interestingly – there’s a musician who will feature strongly in my No. 1 choice next week…

Neil: Just what is there to say about A Love Supreme that is new and different? This is a canonical work in the relative short history of jazz but there can be no doubt that in 200 or more years time it will still be revered, analysed and simply enjoyed as one of the most complete pieces of music every recorded – in any genre.

The first part, Acknowledgement, is the most well known. It opens with drummer Elvin Jones striking a Chinese gong before Coltrane enters with an invocation Alice Coltrane described as like the doors opening on a beautiful city. And then it’s the bit that everyone knows – that insidious blues-based bass riff. Along with the four note phrase itself, this is the touchstone of A Love Supreme – the core of its being. The mantra ‘A love supreme’ is a return to the gospel source of ‘trane’s music, a way of rooting the music in a universal spirituality. In an interview with Ashley Khan, Wayne Shorter got it right: “I think he was going back to square one where the voice is the first announcement of your humanity – your humanity is your instrument.”

Khan’s book exploring the genesis and context of A Love Supreme is a revelation. He discusses writer Lewis Porter’s theory (but one known and understood by the jazz cogniscenti) that Coltrane’s lyrical solo on the final part of the music (Psalm) is entirely derived from a syllabic reading of his liner note poem.

Listen to this music while reading Coltrane’s heartfelt prayer and you’ll get closer to understanding why Coltrane is the only musician – jazz or otherwise – to have a Christian sect who worship him. The St John Coltrane African Orthodox Church ( was founded by Archbishop Franzo King who heard A Love Supreme and experienced what he called “a sound baptism.” Sounds fair enough to me.

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