John Coltrane’s Giant Steps and his Impression on Contemporary Artists

— Features — Editor

John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme is considered to be the tenor saxophonist’s magnum opus; an influence on a wide range of artists, from guitarist John McLaughlin to contemporary sax players like Donny McCaslin and Nat Birchall. But Coltrane’s innovative streak stems back earlier than his 1965 album for Impulse! Records. In 1960, the title of track of his LP Giant Steps boasted a unique approach to chordal structure, thanks to his exploration of the circle of fifths. Coltrane’s approach was explored in depth in the new Earworm mini-documentary by Vox, with Braxton Cook (the alto saxophonist with Marquis Hill Blacktet) chiming in on the qualities of the compositions. Check out the documentary below and while you’re at it, why not peruse William Ellis’ recent One LP portraits, which include Donny McCaslin — shot here at Band on the Wall — discussing his love of A Love Supreme.

The Repeat Listen: Josephine Foster  – Faithful Fairy Harmony

Tasting Notes: Vashti Bunyan – Just Another Diamond Day, Molly Drake – Molly Drake, Iva Bittová – Bílé inferno, Devendra Banhart – Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, Sílvia Pérez Cruz & Raül Fernandez Miró – Granada

Josephine Foster’s timbre and diction recall the recordings of a bygone era. It’s rare for a vocalist to possess such breathtaking talent, while having the artistic conviction to adorn their voice and songwriting with sparse, earnest instrumentation. Foster has done just that for many years, across numerous albums of ‘cult classic’ status. Here, with an all-analog double album tracked in Nashville this past Spring, she reminds the listener of her penchant for avant-garde arrangement, her singular take on the lineage of Americana and her romantic, literary approach to lyric writing.

The 18-song collection is consistently interesting, despite only eight musicians contributing from a consciously limited sound palette. Songs such as The Peak of Paradise are expansive and romantic, underpinned as many of the album’s slower numbers are, with Victor Herrero’s unsettling ambient guitar work and Gyða Valtýsdóttir’s haunting cello.

Toward the end of the masterfully constructed Lord of Love, we hear Foster reciting and scribbling down the songs lyrics as her lead vocal take soars – a usual but effective technique that condenses the joy and exasperation of the writing process into a single passage of music.

Simpler folk songs such as Benevolent Spring are elevated by Foster’s characterful delivery, while the arrangement of songs like Shepherd Moon of Starry Height, speak for themselves when the voice is less prevalent. Lyrics of striding ‘the great divide,’ alongside lap steel and swirling organ, recall the atmosphere of The Band’s legendary ‘brown album,’ but as always, Foster’s creations find their own niche within the American roots music landscape.

This isn’t the first and is unlikely to be the last great recording of Josephine’s career. Her charming, honest, nuanced and bold recordings possess a timeless quality, that will allow them to resonate with listeners for years to come.

New Sounds

Mercury Rev announced their full album tribute to Bobbie Gentry this week, entitled The Delta Sweete Revisited. They shared their rendition of Sermon, which features acclaimed country artist Margo Price and represents an atmospheric take on the famed track.

Brainfeeder’s Brainfeeder X, a celebration of ten years of the influential L.A. label, drops today. Amongst the tracks included on the expansive compilation is Mono/Poly’s 2011 cut Needs Deodorant, a track which London-based outfit Cykada tackled in their first Beats of L.A. set at Jazz Cafe earlier this year. Check out the original and rest of the compilation below and find a wicked clip of Cykada rehearsing the jam in their practice space, here.

Speaking of Cykada, three of the band’s members are involved in this blissful, expansive jazz beauty by Eriksson Kaner. Trumpeter Axel Kaner-Lidstrom and saxophonist James Mollison from the band contribute horns, while Tilé Gigichi-Lipere is on mixing and master duties.

New Visuals

The Fernweh released a sepia-tinged visual for their album cut Brightening in the West this week. Their folk-infused psychedelic beat sound has captured the attention of many an attentive music fans this year and the video encapsulates exactly why.

The ever reliable Vulfpeck dropped another DIY studio video this week, accompanying the ultra-funky Darwin Derby ft. Theo Katzman and Antwaun Stanley. Cory Wong and Katzman’s dual rhythm guitar is a vital component of the tune, while the grainy video continues that same unusual charm that the band’s work always has.

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