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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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DUKE ELLINGTON & JOHN COLTRANE

Impulse 0602517486270

 

 



 
1. In a Sentimental Mood
2. Take the Coltrane
3. Big Nick
4. Stevie
5. My Little Brown Book
6. Angelica
7. The Feeling of Jazz
 
Duke Ellington - Piano
John Coltrane - Tenor sax, soprano sax
Aaron Bell - Bass (tracks 1, 4, 5, 7)
Jimmy Garrison - Bass (tracks 2, 3, 6)
Elvin Jones - Drums (tracks 1-3, 6)
Sam Woodyard - Drums (tracks 4, 5, 7)

 

The pairing of these two jazzmen may make you think of the phrase "chalk and cheese". On the face of it, they seem to be almost polar opposites. Yet they were both pioneering individualists - musicians who followed their own paths and, in the process, changed jazz in various ways. Producer Bob Thiele brought them together for this 1962 session, now reissued on a CD which lasts for barely 35 minutes.

Despite their different experiences and backgrounds, Ellington and Coltrane seemed to get on fairly well together. Duke comes up with a neat ostinato to play behind Coltrane's sensitive theme statement for In a Sentimental Mood, although Elvin Jones's drumming is unhelpfully disruptive during Ellington's piano solo. Perhaps this was why the Duke lays out for some of his own composition, Take the Coltrane, leaving Garrison and Jones to accompany Coltrane's steaming solo. Big Nick is the only Coltrane original on the album (the rest are all Ellington or Strayhorn numbers) and it works well. Coltrane switches from tenor sax to soprano, and Ellington clearly enjoys the tune's easy bounce. Thankfully Elvin Jones plays more tactfully here.

Duke Ellington sounds even more relaxed on the next two tracks, backed by his accustomed rhythm section of Aaron Bell and Sam Woodyard. Coltrane blows an intricate but bluesy solo on Stevie (dedicated by the Duke to his drumming nephew, Stephen James) and John's tenor sax coaxes the melody of Billy Strayhorn's My Little Brown Book with feeling. When Garrison and Jones return for Angelica, Ellington again leaves them to provide the backing for Coltrane's adventurous solo, but Bell and Woodyard return for the final track, The Feeling of Jazz, a blues in which the participants sound more at ease, although it fades out inconclusively at the end.

This pairing of Coltrane with Ellington was daring but frankly less successful than the sessions which Bob Thiele organised with the Duke alongside Louis Armstrong and then Coleman Hawkins. John Coltrane appreciated the chance to play with Ellington, saying: "It was a wonderful experience. He has set standards I haven't caught up with yet". Yet the two men and their sidemen somehow failed to gel into an integrated unit in the studio.

Tony Augarde



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