Thursday, October 30, 2008
The Trane Goes Off the Rails with Ascension
Over the last couple of years I have expanded my ear quite a bit. I now enjoy a lot of avant garde jazz that I would never have listened to before. I like Steve Lacy, Cecil Taylor, and even managed to enjoy Albert Ayler for brief periods of time. I have grown positively fond of Eric Dolphy. So I thought, maybe this is the time to try John Coltrane's Ascension. I got it and listened to it today.
It is unendurable. The word cacophony comes to mind. "Harsh and discordant sound," says Merriam Webster. You could have put the Ascension album cover next to the definition. Its harsh and discordant, and little else. Mark Twain says of Wagner's music that "it's not as bad as it sounds." That is very clever criticism. It means that a work of music sounds dreadful, but is well-thought of by the critics. Twain wasn't fooled, and I ain't neither. Ascension is as bad as it sounds. Coltrane was drilling for mother load that he thought lay just a few meters deeper. Unfortunately, all he got was an album that sounds like drilling.
You want some drilling that turns up something? Try David Murray's The Hill. I have posted "Take the Coltrane" on my drop.io account. Murray is into some weird shit, man. But everything on this challenging disc is more coherent than what is on Ascension. The Trane went off the rails.