By Janee Law
Legendary jazz musician John Coltrane composed “A Love Supreme” in his Dix Hills home in 1964. Earlier this month, the song was named to the 2015 National Recording Registry by The Library of Congress.
“Alice Coltrane, his wife who was a tremendous musician in her own right, describes John as having sequestered himself in the upstairs room of that home for about five days and finally descending down the stairs like Moses coming down from the mountain tops having completed this masterpiece,” said Ron Stein, president of the board of directors of the Friends of the Coltrane Home. “It had that kind of weight to it and it’s fascinating to look at the process of the music because it came to him all at once.”
The song is “one of the most influential recordings of the 20th century so it was more or less a no brainer for the registry to have selected it,” Stein said.
Each year, the Library of Congress selects 25 sound recordings to preserve and recognize for their cultural, historical or aesthetic significance. The National Recording Registry collection is maintained at the Library of Congress’ Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Virginia, said Stephen Leggett, program coordinator of the National Recording Preservation Board.
“A Love Supreme,” which released as a two-sided vinyl album of the same name, has four movements within one song, including “Acknowledgement,” “Resolution,” “Pursuance,” and “Psalm.”
The album begins with pianist McCoy Tyner, drummer Elvin Jones and Coltrane playing tenor saxophone before bassist Jimmy Garrison enters as well.
“Whether you’re a jazz lover or just a regular music lover, listen and appreciate the artistry and majestic and transcendent nature of this piece of music,” Stein said. “To this day, the song is just as relevant and as fresh as it was when it was made in ’64, with arguably one of the greatest musical quartets that ever worked together.”
This is the second John Coltrane recording selected by the Library of Congress for the registry. In 2004 “Giant Steps” was selected.
Leggett said the Library of Congress tries to create an “eclectic list,” hitting different genres and artists from different decades.
“We try to show how diverse and broad recorded sound history is,” he said.
The registry also preserves speeches, readings, animal sounds and radio broadcast.
The three-step process in selecting sound recordings includes public nominations, a vote by the 44-person body of the National Recording Preservation Board before the Librarian of Congress, who is currently David Mao, makes the final selection.
Since the Coltrane home, located at 247 Candlewood Path in Dix Hills, was saved from being demolished in 2004, Stein said having “A Love Supreme” selected to the registry is “very exciting.”
“The album itself has been one of the largest selling jazz albums of all time, and it’s one of the things that is inspiring us to try to restore the home,” Stein said. “To have one of the most important pieces of music in the modern era having been composed at the home that we’re trying so hard to restore is obviously validation of the important work that we’re doing.”
Also among the selections to the 2015 registry was “Piano Man” by Billy Joel, who once lived in Lloyd Harbor.