Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on June 10 (tracks 1-3) and June 16 (track 4), 1965.
Digitally re-mastered at MCA Music Media Studios.
The title of this album fits perfectly for John Coltrane was certainly at an important transitional point in his career at the time. Although he was still utilizing the same quartet that he had had for over three years (pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Elvin Jones) and his music had always been explorative, now he was taking his solos one step beyond into passionate atonality, usually over simple but explosive vamps. Other than the tender ballad "Welcome," most of this set is uncompromisingly intense; in fact, the closing nine-minute "Vigil" is a fiery tenor-drums duet. The 21-minute "Suite," even with sections titled "Prayer and Meditiation: Day" and "Affirmation," is not overly peaceful. It must have seemed clear, even at this early point, that Tyner and perhaps Jones would not be with the band much longer.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
"The music has to speak for itself," John Coltrane said once when I asked him for a structural exegesis of one of his composition-performances. "I'd much rather," he continued, "you didn't put anything technical in the notes. It might get in the way of people finding out what there is in the music for them."
And so I shan't try to "analyze" - even if I had the equipment to do it properly - the music on this album. Music which has never been released before, and which is part of a key period in Coltrane's development. "It was a good time," Alice Coltrane recalls. "John was working on ideas, on structures, that would lead into the further freeing of time and textures that characterized his final period. He was doing a lot of writing, even more writing than practicing, and you know how much time he spent practicing. He was very much into modality, as you can hear in Transition. I remember a chart he constructed. He'd take a shape or just an idea that came to him and work out the scales that were right for it." (Here it's worth noting Martin Williams' point that while Ornette Coleman used modality with atonality, Coltrane's modality was scalar or pedal-point.)
As for the music itself, there is so propulsive a joy here in the very act of searching and of finding forms that follow Coltrane's quintessential function as he saw it - going as deep into himself as he could and extending the limits of his horn so that he could bring back whatever he found. There is also the unconstricted lyricism of the man. He was in these years, and later, in a state of wonder - at the possibilities of man and in his own case, in the power of music to transform experience into new and persistently challenging intimations of how much there was yet to learn.
While Dear Lord is an expression of transient serenity, a gathering of forces, these pieces, presaging the further breakthroughs to come, are fired by discovery. "There was never any settling in for John," his wife emphasizes. "He was always moving ahead, looking for new avenues." He could never know exactly when a door to perception would open, and that's why he was always in a state of preparation - practicing, writing, working out ideas. "And when he left for work," Alice Coltrane adds, "he'd often take five instruments with him, including maybe two or three tenors. He wanted to be ready for whatever came." And fortunately Coltrane's colleagues during this period - McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones - were also in a constant state of readiness. "I'm sorry that band ever broke up," Alice said after listening to this album. "They were so right together, so open to each other."
There is, I feel, little more to say in words since the music does speak so penetratingly and evocatively for itself. These performances are an invaluable addition to one of the most singular odysseys in jazz history for, as Alice says, "this man's music was never resigned, never complacent. How could it be? He never stopped surprising himself."
-Nat Hentoff 1970