Since most (if not all) of the master tapes from legit Impulse! recording sessions have been released, the label continued on with a "digging in the crates" approach to expanding their John Coltrane catalog. Subsequently, they came across this recording that 'Trane arranged to record without the assistance (or interference) of Impulse!. Olatunji Concert: The Last Live Recording documents a live performance on April 23, 1967, one of the last times Coltrane would appear on stage, as he passed three months later. Strictly as a document, this is a rich and telling recording. It demonstrates his sonic blast free jazz direction that was becoming more aggressive and out of bounds; It portrays what could have been one of the most dynamically stellar groups of the mid-1960s avant jazz scene with Pharoah Sanders (who, in some ways, steals the show), Alice Coltrane, Rashied Ali, and Jimmy Garrison totally ripping it up; it also gives the average collector a taste of what the maniacal collector goes out of their way to find, as the sound quality is on the level of a sub-par bootleg. Don't expect to hear Bob Theil's warm production or one of Rudy Van Gelder's pristine live recordings á la Live at the Village Vanguard. Instead the equalization is uneven, and there are some parts where the tape drops out. Besides that though, this is essential for seasoned Coltrane listeners.
The two and a half years represented in this mammoth collection made up a period of great activity and development for young John Coltrane. It was a time in which he worked in the Miles Davis Quintet, then joined Thelonious Monk for his historic Five Spot engagement, and then took his place in the legendary 1958 Miles Davis Sextet. It was a time in which he grew from a somewhat promising tenor player to a supernova about to burst upon the jazz world. It was also a span during which Trane traveled with great regularity to the original New Jersey location of the Rudy Van Gelder Studio, taking part in no less than 25 lengthy Prestige recording sessions.
This Savoy double CD brings together in one package all of the label's sessions led by Harden, a talented young musician who turned up briefly, disappeared and is presumed to have died in the 1960s. It includes several alternate takes, giving ample evidence of his attractiveness as a player. He wrote all the pieces, which are more substantial than the on-the-spot "compositions" of many Savoy sessions of the '50s. Sometimes playing trumpet and sometimes rotary valve flugelhorn, he was capable of range, power and bursts of speed, but he built many of his solos on a base of restraint, lyricism and a certain wistfulness.
The superb 2016 six-disc John Coltrane box set The Atlantic Years: In Mono brings together most of the legendary jazz musician's Atlantic albums into one package, restored to their original mono sound. Beginning in 1959, Coltrane's Atlantic years were a transformative time for the saxophonist, during which he furthered his modal explorations and began incorporating aspects of the avant-garde, a vital combination that he would later bring to its pinnacle on his 1965 Impulse! classic, A Love Supreme. Included here are the landmark albums Giant Steps (1960), Bags & Trane (1959) with vibraphonist Milt Jackson, Olé Coltrane (1961) featuring trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, Plays the Blues (1960), and Coltrane's collaboration with maverick pocket trumpeter Don Cherry, The Avant-Garde (1966). Also included is a 32-page book featuring photos by Lee Friedlander and liner notes by writer Ashley Kahn.