A Love Supreme: The Canonization of St. John Coltrane

god-breathes-through-the-holy-horn-of-st-john-coltrane-mark-dukes

The Church of John Coltrane African Orthodox Church is a church based in San Francisco which recognizes the late, great jazz saxophonist John Coltrane as a saint.  As you would imagine, the church’s services transcend your typical Sunday morning sermon as they are centered around live jazz performances and the special communion the performances achieve. Coltrane’s music truly is the vehicle that makes the heart and soul of the congregation one.

Archbishop Franzo Wayne King first founded his church in 1971. King originally called the church “Yardbird Temple”, as a tribute to the jazz club that King ran in San Francisco in the 1960′s.  In 1982, the church officially joined the African Orthodox Church denomination, changed its moniker, and canonized Coltrane as a saint.

coltrane

The ascension of St. John Coltrane into one-ness with God is what we refer to as the Risen Trane. In dealing with the Saint, John Coltrane, we are not dealing with St. John the man but St. John the sound and St. John the Evangelist and Sound Baptist, who attained union with God through sound. From the standpoint of the biography of John Coltrane, the Risen Trane is the post 1957 John Coltrane. He who emerged from drug addiction onto a path of spiritual awakening and who gave testimony of the power and empowerment of grace of God in his life and in his Psalm on A Love Supreme, and in his music thereafter.

 Archbishop Franzo Wayne King

To the uninitiated, it may seem strange that a church would be based around the music of a particular performer and scepticism regarding the faithful’s claims of spiritual union with God through Coltrane’s music is understandable, but Coltrane’s own life was a profound, and often difficult, spiritual journey punctuated by his sheer brilliance and transcendent insight that translated directly in his recordings and performances.

In the year of 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening, which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. As time and events moved on, I entered into a phase which is contradictory to the pledge and away from the esteemed path. But thankfully now, through the merciful hand of God, I do perceive and have been fully reinformed of his omnipotence. It is truly a love supreme.

Liner notes to  John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, 1964

Turnstyle News, an Oakland Based news blog, featured a short documentary video on the church congregation and features interviews with them discussing their spiritual connection with Coltrane’s music.

The following video is  of one of my personal favorite John Coltrane arrangements, entitled ‘Lonnie’s Lament’, a somber but beautiful ballad  off of his 1964 ‘Crescent’ album.

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