[FRIDAY PLAYLIST] Impulse Records under Bob Thiele

I was reading Kurt Vile’s Baker’s Dozen column on the excellent UK-based music site The Quietus, and I was a little surprised to read him name numerous records by John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane, and Pharoah Sanders. When you listen to Kurt Vile, you are more likely to think of Neil Young, Bob Dylan’s collaboration with the Band ‘The Basement Tapes,’ or maybe even bands like Pavement. But his adoration of the spiritual jazz of the aforementioned musicians is testament to the strength of that music. Those musicians display influence on any musician that seeks to stretch a sound out. Coltrane and his brethren grew discontent with parameters, and considering how loose all forms of jazz are, they evidently were uncomfortable with ANY parameters. As a result, records ranging from Sonic Youth’s ‘Daydream Nation’ to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ can draw connections to 1960s free jazz and spiritual jazz.

Interestingly enough, almost all of the Jazz records that Vile named in the column come from a specific record label, Impulse! Records, during a specific period the 1960s, and were all produced by one man, Bob Thiele. Thiele had remarkable foresight in the world of Jazz. When Coltrane initially began to display an interest in spiritualism and improvisation and created ‘A Love Supreme,’ many producers of the time would have balked. But Thiele was with ‘Trane the whole time. The result? ‘A Love Supreme’ sold a gargantuan 100,000 copies. Can you imagine a record as far out selling anything close to that in the modern era? No, it just can’t happen.

‘Trane’s spiritual jazz manifested further in later releases like ‘Ascension’ and ‘Interstellar’ space. He was both meddling in Free Jazz as well as the avant-garde. ‘Ascension’ is an astounding achievement; the only directions ‘Trane gave to his players, that included McCoy Tyner and Pharoah Sanders, were to end their solos with a crescendo. Sanders’ own ‘Tauhid’ was also a watershed moment for free jazz.

While Pharoah represented ‘Trane’s more Free Jazz leanings, his harpist wife Alice Coltrane manifested his interest in the spiritual and made some stunning albums with and without her husband. She incorporated Middle Eastern sounds that had nothing to do with jazz, but nevertheless created monumental walls of sound that can transfix a listener under the right circumstances.

Really, there is too much to say about this fruitful period of this amazing record label to go on at length. The musicians included in this playlist speak enough volumes: Albert Ayler, Chico Hamilton, Charles Mingus, Sun Ra, Archie Shepp, Sonny Rollins, and Mel Brown. There is a lot of music there and I apologize, but sometimes massive amounts of listening is the only way to really get into this type of music. Enjoy.