The James and Susan Neumann Jazz Collection is the largest privately owned collection of jazz materials in the United States, and possibly the world. James Neumann, proprietor of the collection and an Oberlin Alumnus, decided last year to donate all of the materials to Oberlin. So far, the school has received about 45,000 vinyl LPs along with thousands of jazz periodicals and collectibles, which does not event amount to half of the entire collection. The recordings will not be available for students for some time, which is why WOBC has decided to give followers a regular taste of the collection’s rare gems. Disclaimer: Information and music posted are sourced from WOBC copies of albums also included in the Neumann Collection.
This week’s dig from the collection is a beauty: an original pressing of John Coltrane’s masterpiece A Love Supreme. This particular vinyl copy of the album is in its original monoaural format, kept in absolutely pristine condition since its pressing in the year of the record’s release, 1965. The amount of A Love Supreme copies of this kind probably amounts to a few thousand—but in terms of copies that are still in perfect condition, there must only be a handful in existence.
A Love Supreme was originally released on Impulse! records in February 1965. The whole record was cut in one session on December 9th, 1964 at the studio of master engineer Rudy Van Gelder in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. The personnel on the record consists of Coltrane’s legendary quartet of the early to mid-1960s: McCoy Tyner on Piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, Elvin Jones on drums. The music is a suite in four parts: I. Acknowledgment; II. Resolution; III. Pursuance; IV. Psalm. Each movement is dedicated to a different aspect of Coltrane’s newfound devotion to God in the 1960s, and his deep spirituality is viscerally apparent in every moment of the record. Musically, each movement is based on a simple modal chord structure, over which Coltrane plays a short theme and then engages in a more or less “free” improvisation with the other members of the group.
The design and layout of this particular printing of the album is unique for Impulse! records. Most Impulse! releases bear a colorful photograph on the cover, the signature black and orange label on the side binding, and a foldout that includes liner notes, additional information, and photos of the featured musicians. The original release of A Love Supreme, however, bears a stunning black-and-white photo of Coltrane’s face in a position of meditative repose, a matching black-and-white side label, and a foldout that is filled up by a hand-drawn image of Coltrane playing his instrument and personal inscription from the saxophonist/composer proclaiming his love for The Almighty.
It’s clear from the design of the whole package that the record label felt this release needed special treatment. Impulse! turned out to be correct in its projection of the album’s importance: it is one of the best-selling jazz records of all time, and is held as a centerpiece of inspiration by countless musicians. It goes whithout saying that Oberlin is extremely privileged to own an original, mint-condition record of this historic album.
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