Thursday, July 20, 2006


Coltrane's most maligned work

John Coltrane - OM

OM is widely cited as John Coltrane's worst album. I humbly disagree. In fact, I find it to be one of my favorites.

This might be related to the fact that this was the first Coltrane record I'd ever bought. From that time forward, this has been the yardstick I've measured all other free jazz records against.

I think several factors are responsible for the poor critical reputation of this album. First, it was one of several that came out right after he died, and as such might have looked a little exploitative. It was out of sequence, so it was a scream in the middle of some more placid works. This really should have come out around Ascension and Meditations for proper impact.

I think a bigger issue is that you can kind of hear the rhythm section being on a different page than the soloists from time to time. For instance, Tyner's solo comes out of a rage on the first side into a relatively calm and melodic couple of minutes. I like that effect, but it is kind of unexpected. Tyner and Jones made it though about one more session before giving way to Alice C and Rashied Ali.

My favorite moment on this album is right at the beginning. It starts with some chanting, thumb piano, and tinkling bells that wouldn't sound out of place on an Art Ensemble record. Then Pharoah Sanders (I'm assuming it's him) cuts through with some squacks about three registers above where his instrument is supposed to go. There's very few moments in my record collection I love more.

This one is currently only available as part of a couple of expensive compilations. It deserves a better fate. Have a listen.

I agree with you in that it deserves more respect than it gets. I found this at the library on an air force base at the tender age of 15 and it completely BLEW ME AWAY. It still gives me chills -- I don't know what it means, where it fits in Coltrane's discography, or even why it exists, but it changed my life and for that it stands as a great achievement whether jazz intellectuals think so or not. Perhaps less analysis and more open-mindedness--ugly vs beautiful. Thank you SO MUCH for posting this!!
Nice to hear someone respect Om. Maybe the third Coltrane piece I ever heard. What first grabbed me was, of all things, a misspelling of where it was recorded, "Lynwood" WA. In 1965 I must have been less than a mile from where Coltrane (and Pharoah, and Elvin, McCoy, et al) produced this stunning noise. Lynnwood, as white as white as white could be, 13 miles from downtown Seattle, how the hell did they end up less than a mile from where I was in second grade? Thanks for posting it.
Lynnwood, WA! Where Kenny G(orlitz) got his start teaching saxophone for Kennelly Keys! Might not be as honky as you remember it, though.
I've been a fan of Trane since I discovered his music when I was in high school in the mid-1970s. I picked up a vinyl copy of Om when I was around 18, having listened a lot to the quartet stuff as well as Meditations, Ascension, and Expression. At the time, I just didn't "get" Om. It re-entered my collection on CD about a year ago, and it has really become a favorite. Coltrane's solo floors me every time, and Tyner has a nice solo as well. There is a lot of noise in the music, but it all seems to fit together. I think any student of Coltrane's music can learn from this recording. The "free" sessions done with the classic quartet plus additional horns (Ascension, Live In Seattle, Om, Kulu Se Mama/Selflessness, Meditations) are perhaps Trane's most "scary" recordings, but they really seem essential to me. The final quintet was a big step down in musicianship - there is no comparing Alice Coltrane with McCoy Tyner, Rashied Ali with Elvin Jones, or for that matter Pharoah with Trane. Om still has Tyner and Jones - to my knowledge, it is the second to last recording that included all members of the classic quartet, and as such is important.
hi from canada,

is it possible for youto reload this john coltrane om cd ?

thanks very much
I had this on vinyl back in 1975. It scared me. so did the vocal portion of Evolution on Live In Seattle (recorded the evening prior to Om). Recently I started getting into Trane's late period work with a whole new set of ears, works like Meditations, Selflessness (probably my favorite Coltrane piece) Om seems to fit in to the Kulu Se' Mama and Selflessness. I just ordered the Major Works collection even though I already own the 24 bit Ascension and Kulu Se' Mama remasters - just so I could get Om.
this might work...
WOW! This too was my first Trane album, which I bought on vinyl mid 80's when I was about 16.... I was buying albums to try and learn what this Jazz thing was about (in Australia- it's generally played by flavourless middle aged white guys with no real sense of rhythm - very very beige ; with a few very very notable exceptions that is.......) so I wanted to know what the real stuff was- boy was I gonna find out.
Sooooooooo when this got turntabled my whole world got just shot out of a cannon....
I've been looking for this album everywhere... I'll never be that 16year old waiting for launch again- but the more you listen to the Trane, well the more you hear.... (Sorry I just had to reminisce here guys.)
I still haven't been able to listen to this one, it seems that the link has already expired, which leaves me still waitting there, if you could upload it again I would very grateful.

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