Interpretations and interpolations of classics are as integral to jazz as the down beat. But the guitar/drums duo of Jonathan and Jared Mattson, known as The Mattson 2, went one step further for its latest release, taking John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” apart to its smallest elements and re-imagining it for the directly-titled “Mattson 2 Play ‘A Love Supreme.’”
“If you’re going to cover an album, why go so monumental?” Jonathan mock-asked.
amNewYork caught up with the duo to ask that question for real, while talking about the intricacies — and emotions — of taking on such a task.
Of all the jazz records to cover, you choose one of the genre’s giants. Why “A Love Supreme”?
Jonathan: My simple answer is because that’s our favorite jazz album ever made and we wanted to make a jazz covers album. The second reason is because there’s a lot of different choices you could make when covering a jazz album. Not a lot of people choose to cover an album in its entirety, but that’s something we wanted to do.
Jared: From a musical standpoint, ... “A Love Supreme” really excited us. We didn’t want it to sound like a mathematical box. As amazing as “Giant Steps” is, that’s a very theoretical, mathematical album. This one really resonated with us on a creative level. We felt it was something that we could really tap into as a composition.
It had to be at least a little intimidating to tackle.
Jared: A little bit. It was Jonathan’s idea to do “A Love Supreme” and I immediately was like, “We can’t do that. We’re just guitar and drums.” John was all, “Come on. Of course can. Let’s do it.” ... The music itself has its own intricacies that are very intimidating to conquer but for us, we love the challenge of doing that. … Coltrane himself never once felt that this was a sacred piece. To him it was a sacred devotion to God but he never said the piece is sacred and off limits to anyone else who wants to try it. What he also said about it was that this is a piece that was meant for improvisation. If you look at the score, there’s almost no notation on the score. There’d be four bars of notation on certain stuff.
You’re taking a cover version of a record, one that is so revered, on the road, so fidelity to the source is important. But improvisation is such a part of live jazz. Is there a lot of improv at these shows?
Jonathan: I’d honestly say it’s half and half, because there’s elements of the song where we’ve really made our own arrangement of the piece using what Coltrane did. We’re able to really develop those parts and to really get super comfortable with the parts that we’re performing live. It’s definitely a half-and-half mix of improv and composition.