image by Roy Lichtenstein, 1963
Karrin Allyson: You Don't Know What Love Is
John Coltrane: You Don't Know What Love Is
You don't know what love is
'Til you’ve learned the meaning of the blues,
Until you’ve loved a love you've had to lose,
You don't know what love is.
Here's a classic jazz torch song from the Great American Songbook. But who torches it better? Gal, guy, or… Well, can you have a torch song without lyrics? I think so.
Representing for the women is Karrin Allyson, from her 2001 Grammy-nominated album, Ballads: A Tribute to John Coltrane. A nice, church-going girl from Kansas, she skipped around the midwest before settling in New York City and releasing 12 albums (and counting).
Saving the best for last, we have a classic take by John Coltrane (yet another heroin addict, but one who kicked his habit after several firings by Miles Davis, another—you guessed it—reformed addict. The smack-filled 50s were especially hard on jazz musicians). From 1962's Ballads, a gem of an album if you like your Coltrane mellow. That's McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums. This version has my vote. If you don't think that listening to Coltrane is a religious experience, maybe you should visit San Francisco and check out a service at the Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church. From their website I learned that the weekly service features "the Coltrane Liturgy, which combines the Divine Liturgy of the African Orthodox Church and the Twenty-third Psalm, with the melodies, harmonies, and rhythms of Saint John Coltrane's masterpiece: A Love Supreme."