A Love Supreme by John Coltrane (1964)

“God breathes through us so completely . . . so gently we hardly feel it . . . yet, it is our everything.”

Today, John Coltrane is remembered as one of the most influential figures in modern music.  He redefined the possibilities and range of the saxophone, and his arrangements are still understood to be benchmarks by which others are judged.  His seminal work was his A Love Supreme.

As Terry Glaspey explains in 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know :

On December 9, 1964, Coltrane gathered his quartet in the studio to record a suite he had written to praise and honor God for the part he had played in his life. With Coltrane on tenor sax, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums, they knocked out one of the classic albums in the history of jazz in just a few magical hours. His most unified album to date, Coltrane called this suite of four movements A Love Supreme.

A famously reticent and humble man, Coltrane rarely gave interviews or offered an explanation of what he sought in his music. For this record, however, for the first and only time he penned liner notes and a poem upon which the final movement of the suite was based. These notes credit God’s supreme love as the cause of his praise, and our dependence upon him as the foundation for life. The album itself, wrote Coltrane, “is a humble offering to him,” a way of saying, “THANK YOU, GOD.” It balances a deep spiritual serenity with a moving emotional outpouring of pure passion.

Has your religious experience included jazz?  How so?

John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

D I G  D E E P E R

John Coltrane

John Coltrane

(1926–67). Unending restlessness marked the career of John Coltrane, the jazz tenor saxophonist who began by playing bebop and ended by playing free jazz. A passionate player, he aroused strong audience responses and became the most imitated of modern jazz musicians.
John William Coltrane was born on Sept. 23, 1926, in Hamlet, N.C. He grew up in a musical family in High Point, N.C., and began playing clarinet when he was 12 and alto saxophone a year later. After high school he studied at Philadelphia music schools and then played for two years in a United States Navy band. It was while touring with blues bands that he began playing tenor saxophone. He also played in jazz bands, including those of Dizzy Gillespie and Johnny Hodges, though he did not become famous as a soloist until he joined the Miles Davis Quintet in 1955.
With the 1957 Thelonious Monk quartet, Coltrane became a virtuoso player; his fast, many-noted phrases were called “sheets of sound.” He rejoined Miles Davis, with whom he began playing modal jazz. In 1959 he left Davis again, recorded his own masterpiece, Giant Steps, and then underwent extensive dental surgery. In 1960 he studied with Ornette Coleman and formed his own quartet, which included pianist McCoy Tyner and drummer Elvin Jones.
Coltrane’s long, fervent solos in advanced harmonies quickly made his quartet controversial. He created works such as Alabama to reflect his support of the black civil rights movement. He also played music based on religious themes; most important was A Love Supreme.
Eventually he adopted the techniques of free jazz himself; his wife, Alice McLeod Coltrane, became his quartet’s pianist. After a strenuous schedule of touring and performing for many years, his health began to fail. He died of liver disease on July 17, 1967.


Sources & Resources

“Coltrane, John,” Compton’s Encyclopedia (Chicago, IL: Compton’s Encyclopedia, 2015).

Bergerot, Frank, and Arnaud Merlin. The Story of Jazz: Bop and Beyond. New York: Abrams, 1991.

Kahn, Ashley. A Love Supreme. New York: Penguin, 2003

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).


Terry Glaspey

Terry Glaspey

I’m really looking forward to discussing my book, “75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know,” with the members of Literary Life Book Club. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and perspectives on some of the art, music, and literature you’ll discover in the book. I’m interested in how it speaks to you in your life and the ways it inspires, challenges, or maybe even annoys you! I’ll try to share some “deleted scenes” stuff I had to leave out and will tell a few stories about what I experienced while doing the writing and research. Hope that many of you can join us as we look at he stories behind some truly wonderful art.

Let’s explore together!


Join the discussion with Terry on Facebook HERE

Terry Glaspey is a writer, an editor, a creative mentor, and someone who finds various forms of art—painting, films, novels, poetry, and music—to be some of the places where he most deeply connects with God.

He has a master’s degree in history from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), as well as undergraduate degrees emphasizing counseling and pastoral studies.

He has written over a dozen books, including 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know:  Fascinating Stories Behind Great Art, Music, Literature, and Film, Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis, The Prayers of Jane Austen, 25 Keys to Life-Changing Prayer, Bible Basics for Everyone, and others.

Terry enjoys writing and speaking about a variety of topics including creativity and spirituality, the artistic heritage of the Christian faith, the writing of C.S. Lewis, and creative approaches to apologetics.

He serves on the board of directors of the Society to Explore and Record Church History and is listed in Who’s Who in America Terry has been the recipient of a number of awards, including a distinguished alumni award and the Advanced Speakers and Writers Editor of the Year award.

Terry has two daughters and lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Dig Deeper at TerryGlaspey.com


Some of the greatest painters, musicians, architects, writers, filmmakers, and poets have taken their inspiration from their faith and impacted millions of people with their stunning creations. Now readers can discover the stories behind seventy-five of these masterpieces and the artists who created them. From the art of the Roman catacombs to Rembrandt to Makoto Fujimura; from Gregorian Chant to Bach to U2; from John Bunyan and John Donne to Flannery O’Connor and Frederick Buechner; this book unveils the rich and varied artistic heritage left by believers who were masters at their craft.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).

Order it HERE today.

Published by

Rick Wilcox

Editor in Chief | Literary Life