John Coltrane: Offering: Live at Temple University

Jeff Tamarkin on August 1, 2014

Among Coltrane-ophiles, the November 1966 concert the saxophonist gave at Philadelphia’s Temple University is both a curiosity and a treasure. Often bootlegged but never officially released before, it’s not an easy listen. It’s the type of extreme, dissonant, free-flowing, open-ended improvisation that detractors of jazz have in mind when they proclaim that they don’t like the genre melody is virtually absent. It’s also not the greatest recording: Taped with a single mic focused on the sax, the other instruments are never quite balanced correctly or sharply in focus. Guest percussionists and alto saxists come and go, and John Coltrane even vocalizes, oddly, a few times—he also toots a flute. But for those already enamored of Trane, this two-disc souvenir of a late-career gig (Coltrane would be gone eight months later) is a prime sampling of just how far he’d continued along his journey, even in the wake of 1964-65’s iconic A Love Supreme. Comparatively, the Temple date—five pieces, among them the familiar “My Favorite Things,” “Crescent” and “Naima”—is raucous, chaotic, probing, stretching, unpredictable and, ultimately, enormously rewarding. With wife Alice Coltrane (piano), Pharoah Sanders (sax) and the rhythm section of Sonny Johnson (bass) and the powerhouse Rashied Ali (drums), Coltrane is still restless, uncompromising and, though off in his own zone, in touch with all that is both worldly and otherworldly.

Artist: John Coltrane
Album: Offering: Live at Temple University
Label: Resonance