Henry Kaiser and John Coltrane: how to re-read the classics on #neuguitars #blog


“It was guitarists in particular, including the leading soloists of the San Francisco music scene, who were drawn to Coltrane’s album and long improvisations.”

Ashley Kahn, A Love Supreme

Jorge Luis Borges teaches us that etymology is an interesting and even surprising science. The term “classic” derives from the Latin “classicus”, a first-class citizen, and later a first-rate writer. The Italian Encyclopedia Treccani gives a vast and extensive description of this term ( https://www.treccani.it/vocabolario/classico/ ) which shows us how the term “classic” was an elitist concept that has become universal. In Latin the classic is the excellent, because it belongs to the highest social class, or because it is assimilated to this. Classical culture, in the sense of Greek and Latin, in addition to being classical in the sense of an example of perfection and excellence, has also revealed itself to be a strictly elitist “class” culture, closed to most. But the excellence of the classic is superimposed on an idea of tradition, acquiring a connotation of cultural identity. The classic is a historical example, a root of culture. For example, if we talk about classical music, we are certainly talking about cultured music, but also about music that has had enough weight to deeply dig into the collective imagination of every social class. Talking about books we can cite a great classic: the caliber of that book will lie in its ability to speak to anyone at any time. In other words, classic is what has such a high and straightforward value that it spontaneously becomes a shared culture.


Borges tells us how “classic is that book that a nation or a group of nations or a long time have decided to read as if in its pages it was all deliberate, fatal, deep as the cosmos and capable of endless interpretations.”

I believe this view can also be applied to John Coltrane’s music. Coltrane’s music has become something “classic”. He has gone beyond the borders of nations, the different colors of men’s skin, has given joys, pains, emotions, spirituality, mysticism, to unknown people who have never met him in person. I was waiting for the moment for his music to be reinterpreted in a new formula, from a different angle. So I thank the brilliant Henry Kaiser and the stainless Cuneiform Records for this project of reinterpretation of the music of John Coltrane. Both are not new to operations of this kind. Kaiser had previously reinterpreted Miles Davis’ electric period. At the time, some people talked about profanation. Maybe it will be done again for this “A Love Supreme Electric”. If this is done it will be mainly for two reasons: the first is that many do not like to “re-read” the classics. They want them motionless, frozen, untouchable, closed in crystal cases equipped with sophisticated anti-intrusion alarm systems. The end? Conservation as an end in itself. The result? The squalid stagnation that slowly makes everything moldy. The second is similar to the first, but more nuanced on an aesthetic level. John Coltrane was, like Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, one of the saints of jazz. Playing with his music can be seen as an act of pride, intellectual and musical arrogance. If you listen to this double cd with these two blinders you will not go far. You might as well forget at the start. But if you are willing to accept Borges’ point of view then this double CD will strike you like a shock, so intense, deep and full of energy this music IS.

The music of “A Love Supreme” and “Meditation” will appear transfigured, immersed in a new light and, when you return to listen to the Coltrane originals again, because you will surely return to listen to them again, you will re-read these “classics” in new and different ways.

The emotions that Coltrane’s music arouses are perhaps eternal, but the means must constantly change, albeit in a very slight way, in order not to lose their virtue. The classics wear out as the reader, the listener always recognizes them in the same way. Everyone doubts her/his art and that which surrounds her/him. Classic is not a book, a score, a record that necessarily possesses these or those merits. Classic is a book, a score, a record that generations of men, driven by various reasons, continue to read, play, listen with new fervor and a mysterious loyalty. Today’s art must be able to tune in to the wavelength of these signals, capture them and translate them into new codes. Coltrane is now part of this vital eternity.

Vinny Golia tenor, soprano, & baritone saxophones
John Hanrahan drums
Henry Kaiser guitar
Wayne Peet Hammond B3 & Yamaha YC-45D Organs
Mike Watt bass