You can never be too sure what you’re going to get with John Coltrane. It can be soft, smooth Jazz, crazy discordant free Jazz, experimental fusions… over his career, he’s pushed the boundary on many styles.
However, like a Savile Row suit, you can always be assured of enduring quality. And “India” is a Savile Row suit in song form!
The underlying foundation of the song is a gentle, rolling rhythm section with a restless, softly splashing drum part and two slightly off kilter doulbe basses. Layered on this is a subtle piano part, and a truly inspired run of saxophone and clarinet motifs.
It’s the sax and clarinet parts which most identifiably lean into ‘free’ jazz, as they pick up, play with and discard melodies in a mad dash across, as it seems to my musically uneducated ear, every scale known to humankind.
The song is designed to emulate the long meditations of Indian classical music – a sign of later eclecticism from Coltrane. It’s a slow burner, not a 3 minute pop song – but give it time, and you can soak up its brilliance!
“India” was released in 1963, on Impressions, a classic Coltrane album which pieces together his development over a 3 year period.