This week, in celebration of the birth of creative genius John Coltrane, we focus on Trane’s Interstellar Space. Coltrane recorded this masterpiece in 1967, the year of his death, and Impulse! Records released it in September 1974.
In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone, music journalist Stephen Davis called the album “plainly astounding” and found Ali the ideal complement for Coltrane’s mystical ideas. Davis wrote: He outlandishly returns the unrelenting outpour of energy spewing from Trane, and the result is a two-man vulcanism in which Ali provides the subterranean rumblings through which the tenor explodes in showers of notes. Robert Christgau wrote in his column for The Village Voice that he was amazed by the duets, which sound like an annoyance until you concentrate on them, at which point the interactions take on pace and shape, with metaphorical overtones that have little to do with the musical ideas being explored.
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His review of Interstellar Space’s expanded CD reissue found jazz critic Scott Yanow deeming it rousing if somewhat inaccessible music with transformative, emotional duets that showcase Coltrane’s flair for improvising without a traditional jazz accompaniment. Tiny Mix Tapes wrote that the fierce free-jazz rumination is not as important as his other albums Giant Steps (1960) and A Love Supreme (1965), but it better encapsulates Coltrane’s spiritual and stylistic growth, including his understanding and grasp of multiphonic techniques, overtone sounds, and altissimo notes. According to Down Beat magazine, Interstellar Space best exemplified the formal principles Coltrane applied to his more spiritual music, while Derek Taylor from All About Jazz called it one of his most important recordings, distinct from previous duets he recorded with the likes of Elvin Jones:
In Ali he found a drummer even more willing to abandon terrestrial rhythmic boundaries and set course for uncharted space. Across these duets the saxophonist is at his most visceral exuding an overpowering confidence tempered at times with sacrosanct tenderness. Ali’s interlocking pan-rhythmic patterns envelop and embrace while fervently pushing the music forward