John Coltrane: Alabama
John Coltrane (tenor sax)
Live at Birdland (Impulse IMPD-198)
Composed by John Coltrane.
Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, November 18, 1963
Rating: 90/100 (learn more)
photo by Herb Snitzer
John Coltrane recorded back-to-back takes of his work-in-progress "Alabama" two months after the racist bombing of a Birmingham church that killed four girls (ages 11-14) and injured another 22 children and adults. Yet, when asked if his piece related to "today’s problems," Coltrane hedged. "It represents, musically, something that I saw down there translated into music from inside me." Why the evasion? "Alabama" is stirring, and would make a noble elegy to the victims. But if unrelated to "Bombingham," there’s no shame in saying so. Coyness should be left to politicians and other courtesans. They get more practice at it.
Reviewer: Alan Kurtz