John Coltrane’s 1965 magnum opus A Love Supreme is one of the most revered and influential recordings in the history of jazz, widely regarded as the iconic saxophonist’s masterpiece. It might seem audacious at the very least to undertake a new recording of such a foundational album, but twin brothers Jared & Jonathan Mattson are nothing if not sonic risk-takers. With their new release Mattson 2 Play “A Love Supreme,” the duo reimagines Coltrane’s avant-garde epic through a 21st-century lens, creating a new interpretation that remains faithful to the questing spirit of the original while pushing the music into bold new territory – which itself is fully in keeping with the composer’s forward-looking vision. The album, due out [date] via Spiritual Pajamas, translates the Coltrane Quartet’s acoustic jazz explorations into a modern language swathed in a haze of analog synths, ecstatic guitars, transcendent grooves and enveloping atmospherics. “The goal behind our reinterpretation of A Love Supreme was to really lean into the spirit of exploration and transformation that’s embodied in jazz.” says Jonathan Mattson. “We don’t claim to be traditional jazz musicians, for us it’s about creatively adapting the art form, decontextualizing it, and exploring the genre in new ways. Jazz has been confined to such a narrow definition over the years and we want to make sure the genre continues to grow and evolve. It should be a living, breathing thing.”That mission is certainly in line with Coltrane’s own intentions for his piece, which is less a set composition than a framework for spiritual communion through improvisation. It was an intensely personal work for the saxophonist, fully melding his musical evolution with his religious path. It also relied on the profound depth of communication and understanding that had developed between Trane and his renowned Classic Quartet bandmates: pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Elvin Jones. The Mattson brothers have one advantage over even those legends: the unique telepathy that exists between identical twins, an unspoken communication and empathy that they refer to as “twinchronicity.” In A Love Supreme, the Mattsons saw a way to channel that rare connection into expansive new horizons. “What we were drawn to was the communication element,” Jared says. “Coltrane wrote A Love Supreme as a blueprint to reach higher levels of consciousness. As twins, Jonathan and I were able to bring this telepathic element to it as well. For us, the spiritual element is very private and personal. It’s about communication and interaction, hearing where each other is going and doing what’s best for the music in the moment.”
The idea for Mattson 2 Play “A Love Supreme”was hatched to celebrate International Jazz Day 2017, the annual occasion set aside by UNESCO to honor the music around the world. Wanting to mark the occasion in some way, the brothers decided to play a single jazz album in its entirety – and it didn’t take long to settle on A Love Supreme. “It’s our favorite jazz album,” Jared says. Jonathan adds, “The first time we heard it we were blown away. We were used to traditional jazz and hard bop so it was extremely different, but I don’t hear it as avant-garde. It sounds so catchy to me.”The brothers had grown up listening to punk rock, so perhaps they were more prepared than most for the now-classic album’s bracing blend of raw power and unrelenting intensity. While they have continued to incorporate an eclectic blend of influences into their category-defining sound, jazz remains a key influence for Mattson 2. “We may not sound like jazz to a lot of people,” Jonathan admits, “but jazz is an extremely important part of our development.” It was the classic, era-defining style of the album art on releases by Blue Note, Impulse! and other labels, Jared interjects, that first drew the twins to the music. “We’d see these record covers and think, ‘This is the coolest looking music I’ve ever seen.’ We were drawn to the style first and foremost. It had an edge; it never felt like old people’s music to us. The outrageousness, the high art and the visceral quality just appealed to our souls.”The duo tried to teach themselves to play the music, though later realized, upon meeting more experienced musicians, that they were doing it “wrong.” Of course, wrong turns often lead to unexpected discoveries, and it was through their individualized take that the Mattsons derived their unmistakable sound. The same methods defined their approach to A Love Supreme: they first undertook an intensive study of the original composition, Coltrane’s notes, and every available recording by the Coltrane Quartet as well as later versions by the likes of John McLaughlin, Branford Marsalis and Alice Coltrane. “We learned the vocabulary of A Love Supreme,” Jonathan says. “Then we used that vocabulary to fuel our own original version.”That version was honed through invaluable live performances before audiences largely unfamiliar with the original, though these more rock-oriented fans soon experienced the piece’s transformative power. “It was so incredible to see the way that a rock fans connected with the music,” Jonathan recalls. “There was yelling and crying, people getting really stoked and devouring every note we were playing. Seeing people’s minds getting blown by Coltrane’s music was an inspiration for us.”Those visceral reactions attest to the continuing impact of Coltrane’s bold vision. Mattson 2 Play “A Love Supreme”channels that vision with both reverence and inventiveness, creating a vibrant and electrifying new interpretation that will resonate with new generations of open-minded listeners.
Living in Symbol is an ode to ambiguity, the future, and saying ‘so long’ to the known. A member of the last generation to experience life before total interconnectedness, Anthony Ferraro (digitally known as Tony Peppers) aims to be a bridge between two very different realities.
The spirit of change is especially pronounced in California’s bay area, where technologies dawn and disruption is the noblest goal. Critics and advocates of all stripes write columns and fill talk radio hours with their analyses of the times. Ferraro is a funny case: a sometimes Luddite with a romantic streak, he would probably be a doomsayer if it weren’t for his being situated in the middle of it all. As it happens, he ended up writing a generative music algorithm that sold on auction at the Smithsonian for $5,000.
His take on tomorrow is nonjudgmental, meditative, imaginative. It keeps away from unqualified hope or outright alarmism, choosing instead to embrace the indeterminacy as food for dreaming.
Ferraro’s friendship with Chaz Bear, who co-produced the album, began modestly enough: Bear walked into the coffee shop where Ferraro worked while attending UC Berkeley. The two became friends, and when Ferraro graduated the following summer, he signed on as touring keyboardist for Toro y Moi. Musical bonds were forged over the next few years, and the pair began collaborating on what would become Living in Symbol.
Sonically, the album weaves its influences into an alien drapery. “The Border” introduces Latin psychedelia to a groove à la David Axelrod, setting the stage for a vocal performance that manages to be equal parts Lee Hazlewood and HAL 9000. On “The Room”, a Borgesian story gets dressed up in an eerily graceful string arrangement reminiscent of Les Baxter. And “Who I Talk To” nods to George Harrison in a soft rocking arrangement that supports Ferraro’s ghostly croon.
Living in Symbol is a series of rooms, a choose-your-own-tomorrow story. Step in and peer through its open doors.