Life, sound and stuff in interstellar space by John Coltrane, Nels Cline and Gregg Bendian on #neuguitars #blog #JohnColtrane #NelsCline

Life, sound and stuff in interstellar space by John Coltrane, Nels Cline and Gregg Bendian 

Nels Cline

About these interstellar spaces. I think we need to do some history. We are in April 1967, when John Coltrane signed his second long-term contract with Impulse! records. A contract which, however, he was unable to fully honor, due to his premature death which occurred only three months later, in July ’67. Only three months in which, however, Coltrane worked so frenetically and intensely in the studio that the label had enough unreleased material already recorded to be able to compile a dozen posthumous albums. Among these, one of his best recordings ever: Interstellar Space, released in 1974 at the behest of the musician’s widow, Alice Coltrane. Over the previous two years, Coltrane’s progressive involvement in avant-garde jazz had caused defections of members of his classic quartet and heated debates among jazz aficionados. The saxophonist’s music had become increasingly complex, difficult, experimental, in equal measure ethereal and sanguine, ferocious and full of otherworldly peace. Coltrane, canonized as a saint by the African Orthodox Church in San Francisco,

St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church (

decided to move his music towards the singularity, towards the transcendence of the very voice of his saxophone. A sort of personal mystical liturgy, after the psalmic perfection of A Love Supreme. With Interstellar Space, Coltrane crafted an album of cosmic heights and almost Franciscan rigour, stripped of the legendary quartet, featuring only Coltrane and Rasheed Ali on drums. Since its release, the album has become a source of inspiration for a whole host of new avant-garde musicians such as Charles Gayle, Andrew Cyrille, David S. Ware, Ivo Perelman, Assif Tsahar and Louie Belogenis.

But it takes courage to dare to do a reinterpretation, and yet, free-jazz drummer Gregg Bendian of Interzone and guitarist Nels Cline attempted to do just that, in 1999, for Atavistic Records. This album was made in 1999. 1999 you know? Nearly twenty-five years ago, basically a geological era with everything that’s happened in all that time, and it’s still as incredibly powerful, current, and energetic as it was on its release date. Now, the mere idea that someone else can play John Coltrane’s music is a paradox in itself. However, I think Cline and Bendian made the right decision, choosing to play in the spirit of John Coltrane. Their music points towards a loud, free and experimental asceticism.

Nels Cline delivers a guitar saturated with electric energy and powerful uninterrupted feedback. Bendian’s drumming, which we have already met in “The Sign of Four” with Pat Metheny and Derek Bailey, manages to stay on these levels of abstraction, choosing a more energetic and almost rock style, compared to Ali’s rhythmic agility. There is no doubt that the album is inspired or, at least, possessed by the original identity of Coltrane. “Interstellar Space Revisited” is a forward-thinking and millenarian interpretation of the music of the last, courageous period of Coltrane’s life.

It is an album endowed with an energy and a life of its own, in which a sense of profound humility and sincere respect for the great African-American saxophonist shines through. At the same time the two musicians manage to give an innovative impulse, ferrying Coltrane’s work almost to another solar system. Almost 25 years have passed since “Interstellar Space Revisited” was produced by Atavistic and still no one has had the courage to take up the baton and go back to exploring the vastness of interstellar space. You know, every interpretation impoverishes the myth and suffocates it. You don’t need to be in a hurry with myths: it’s better to let them settle in your memory, stop and meditate on every detail.

Coltrane’s music has become something “classic”. He has gone beyond the borders of nations, the different colors of men’s skin, he has told joys, pains, emotions, spirituality, mysticism, to unknown people who have never met him in person. It is waiting for the moment to be re-read, reinterpreted in a new formula, from a different angle. 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. Today’s art must know how to tune into the wavelength of these signals, capture them and translate them into new codes. Coltrane is now part of this vital eternity, Cline and Bendian have managed to give him a new energy and transport him into the present.

Success! You're on the list.