Sunday, 16 March 2008
I'm fascinated by the relationship between music and surfing. This clip of John Coltrane from 1960 performing one of his classic interpretations of Rodgers and Hammerstein's anthemic 'My Favourite Things' (from the musical 'The Sound of Music') is a really rare glimpse into one of the most creative moments in sixties music. Forget the Beatles, dude. The interplay between order and chaos, rhythm and randomness, tone and dissonance, reminds me of a visceral, elemental surf session.
Coltrane is on the strangely 'eastern' sounding Soprano sax, repeating the signature theme over and over again and rinsing it out of almost every possible connotation. Elvin Jones is a master of polyrhythmic undertones on drums. Jimmy Garrisson grooves under the radar on bass, McCoy Tyner accentuates the flight of the melody on the piano and Eric Dolphy flies like a bird over the whole concoction on flute. All through the sixties, Coltrane's various bands would practice this tune for hours on end, and in one show in Japan, apparently played a whole uninterrupted three hour set based on this tune. Coltrane was trying to tease out some essential truth in the heart of the music by drawing all these rhythms and harmonies together and unifying them within the simple, beautiful melodic structure written by Rodgers & Hammerstein. There's something about the way that a surfer draws a line through the apparently chaotic forces of nature that is parallel to Coltrane's solo line through the orchestration.