THROWBACK: John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” — Or Some Thoughts on Jazz, My Father and The Events of 9/11

 

John Coltrane‘s A Love Supreme has been an annual tradition since this site’s inception, and while it may arguably be among one of the most beautiful album s ever written and recorded, it’s also an album that has a deeply personal meaning to me; in fact, the tradition goes back to about roughly 2005. On that particular September 11th, I had come  home from a job at a small Midtown Manhattan-based publisher to my father cooking and playing A Love Supreme on the living room stereo loudly — so loudly that it almost felt and sounded as though the musicians were playing right in our living room. My father wasn’t exactly the most thoughtful or even mindful person but in light of such terrifying and awful events, it seemed to be one of the most thoughtful things he’s done in many years; after all, the album is not just a reminder of the profound beauty we are sometimes capable of, as well an album that humbly contemplates the nature of God and of God’s love. And it made quite a bit of sense.

Now, as you know, this post is an annual tradition here and as you may recall, my father was a complicated and conflicting figure in my life. He was a terrible drunk and died at the age of 57. Throughout his life, he was in many was, he was three or four different people at various points in my life, and I’ll never be able to completely reconcile all of them. Years ago, I learned to just accept it as it is. And while he may have been a unknowable and sometimes terrible person, who I frequently hated and had no respect for, he was my father — and unlike some of the people I grew up, I knew him and he was around, even if he was sort of absent. But he taught me how to did teach me how to wear a suit and how to tie a tie; how to catch a baseball and how to throw it; how to read a point spread; raised me as a Yankee fan; and he was a huge jazz fan — particularly, the bop era. One of the rare positive things I can remember is my father playing old Horace SilverOliver  NelsonMiles DavisDizzy GillespieCharlie Parker and a long list of others. Dad loved Coltrane the most, and in my house, he was something akin to a god. In some way small way, those old albums are one of the only ways I can truly connect to him in a way that makes sense.

As a native New Yorker, September 11th has a much different meaning and feel than most other Americans. Back then, I was finishing my last semester at NYU, and I can still remember coming across the missing posters posted all across town. At the West 4th Street A,B,C,D,E,F, and M station — the M train didn’t stop there at the time; but it does now — the victim’s families posted missing posters from ceiling to floor, going end to end, east to west, across Sixth Avenue. With each of those posters, the family tried to capture their loved one  in the fullness of their lives, smiling in that awkward and self-conscious fashion that we all do in extremely posed pictures or doing something that they loved. “My friend such and such was last seen on the 103rd floor . . . ,” several would read, and they were pleading for any information they could get on their loved one.  But somehow you just knew that most of those people would never be found again; that they’d never be returning home ever again; and the family would be left with somehow trying to piece together their lives without someone they loved. Personally, I quickly recognized that in every one of those pictures, it was much like looking at someone you knew and/or saw regularly — your neighbor, your childhood friend, an ex-boyfrend or girlfriend, your coworker’s wife or kid, your cousin, a family friend you hadn’t seen in some time, a coworker. And although New York is a bustling city of 8.1 million people, there are countless moments in which it’s one of the smallest places in the wold, and as a result, you knew someone who survived the attacks or someone who lost someone. It’s a deeply visceral sensation of along the lines of “that could have been me, that could have been me, that could have been me/thank goodness, it wasn’t me, thank goodness, thank goodness.”

Understandably, my mind turns to the families of the victims and survivors and the world at large today. In the past I’ve suggested wordy but thoughts on religion and our purpose here. I won’t do that today. I’ll just simply say this — cherish life. Cherish life always. This is all we know, and it may very well be all we have.

 

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