THE VERY BEST OF JOHN COLTRANE
( John Coltrane 75th Anniversary )
Collective personnel: John Coltrane-Tenor and Soprano Saxophones,
Eric Dolphy-Bass Clarinet, McCoy Tyner-Piano, Duke Ellington-Piano,
Jimmy Garrison-Bass, Reggie Workman-Bass, Elvin Jones-Drums, Roy Haynes-Drums,
1. A Love Supreme: Part 1 - Acknowledgement
2. In A Sentimental Mood
3. Bessie's Blues
5. Afro Blue
6. Lush Life
8. Impressions-previously unissued
10. My Favourite Things
This release is comprised of John Coltrane's recordings on the Impulse
label and covers the years 1961 - 1964. This the period when he was
breaking away from the "sheets of sound" style and was embracing
more of a modal concept as well as making some early experiments in
a somewhat more "free" vein. This album does not feature any
of the more excessive avant - garde playing ( fascinating as it was
) found on such later releases as "Cosmic Music" or "Ascension"
To describe this as "The Very Best Of John Coltrane " is perhaps
unfair and somewhat misleading. Coltrane's recorded output from this
era seemed to reach a plateau of quality and excellence. The "Very
Best " tag also ignores his astounding earlier output on the Prestige
and Atlantic labels which gave us such jewels as "Black Pearls"
and "Giant Steps". A more appropriate title might have been
"The Better Known Works 1961 - 1964". However, this disc does
serve as a superb introduction to the listener who is not familiar with
the recordings from these years.
A track by track analysis could only begin to describe
the remarkable breadth of material covered here and the total commitment
and intensity found on these titles. The version of "My Favourite
Things" is not the famous one but comes from the live album "Newport
' 63". It is a wonderful initiation to Coltrane's concept on the
soprano saxophone - an instrument which he virtually single - handedly
popularised in the world of contemporary music. There are two tracks
from the session with Johnny Hartman, "Lush Life" and "In
A Sentimental Mood". These performances show a gentler side of
Coltrane's musical persona as well as giving us an opportunity to hear
the rich vocal tones of Hartman.
"Naima" and Afro - Blue" are both live takes
and the former has the added delight of a superb bass clarinet outing
by Eric Dolphy. "Impressions" is a real bonus in that it is
a previously unissued version. It is always a source of fascination
to hear the endless variations Coltrane could achieve on a composition
using only two chords ( the same as Miles Davis' "So What").
This is inventive genius in its most intensely concentrated form.
" A Love Supreme" is perhaps Coltrane's most significant
longer work and I think it is a mistake to issue just one part . I can
only encourage anyone who enjoys "Acknowledgement" to listen
to the whole suite. As one would expect the other musicians featured
on this disc are all brilliant - they are, after all, amongst the great
players of their chosen instruments.
D.S. is a professional reed player and teacher living