Friday, April 11, 2003

A Case For Song

Friend Mike has this thing where he's collecting people's impressions of important songs, in their lives. I wrote one. Since it seems I don't have many blog ideas right now, here's what I wrote. But go see Mike's A Case For Song too.

I've picked - and subsequently rejected - probably 10 songs to write about here.

That, in itself, is interesting to me. What is *the* song that has been the key talisman in my life?

Should I write about a song that resonated so profoundly within me that whenever I hear it, I'm transported back to the first time I heard it? What about music that is indelibly connected with vital real world experiences of significant personal portent? Or, should it be a song that came from out of the blue; turning me on to new musical experiences I'd never imagined before? Better yet, how about something that was of music, but the hearing of it meant a transcendence of the simple act of musical appreciation? A vehicle of enlightenment...with all the pomposity that entails.

I finally decided the last category is the right one. The others are as much about me as the music. After all, it's A Case For Song, not A Vat Of Dean.

So, with that finally settled, really only one song makes sense. John Coltrane's Naima.

It's not news that Coltrane's body of work can, should, be approached with reverence. So much of his work is a personal testament. The Church of John Coltrane in San Francisco is proof that his music exists quite naturally beyond existentialism (is that paradoxical?). Deeply spiritual, masculine and profoundly moving, Coltrane's music is serious. Yet I find, on balance, there are equal measures of tender and tortured. Naima personifies the tender side.

I'll admit this song may not be his highest achievement. It doesn't have the revelatory grandeur of something off of say A Love Supreme. Nor will it deliver the primal purity of Ogunde (which, over the years, I have grown to love). Live recorded performances of Naima are actually somewhat disappointing. But it's original studio recording, from Giant Steps, fills a space in my personal universe. It presents The Question...and answers it, with sublime elegance.

It is a poem, to his wife.


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