In 1957, the greatest year for recorded music including modern jazz, Detroit was a hot spot, a centerpiece to many hometown heroes as well as short-term residents like John Coltrane and Miles Davis. It was here that Trane connected with pianist Tommy Flanagan, subsequently headed for the East Coast, and recorded this seminal hard bop album. In tow were fellow Detroiters - drummer Louis Hayes, bassist Doug Watkins, and guitarist Kenny Burrell, with the fine trumpeter from modern big bands Idrees Sulieman as the sixth wheel...
This single-disc Concert in Japan by John Coltrane's 1966 quintet is a reissue of the original double LP that was released as IMR 9036C in 1973. Its three selections include two long instrumental pieces and a spoken introduction of the musicians in Japanese. These performances are compiled from two Tokyo dates. This set is not to be confused with the four-disc document that includes both Tokyo concerts in their entirety. The band here performs a 25-minute "Peace on Earth," a ballad that Coltrane wrote especially for the tour, to express his empathy and sympathy for the nuclear destruction Japan experienced during WWII. The tune moves outside, but stays well within the realm of spiritual boundary-pushing that the band was easily capable of.
Recorded on August 26, 1965 (and not released until after his death in heavily edited form), Sun Ship was the final recording by John Coltrane's quartet with drummer Elvin Jones, pianist McCoy Tyner, and bassist Jimmy Garrison. After nearly four years together, this band had achieved a vital collective identity. When Coltrane moved toward metrically free styles of rhythm and melody (with tunes often based on one chord or a short series of notes as themes), the quartet's rhythmic pulse and collective interplay evolved accordingly. The title track opens with a splintered theme. Garrison and Jones group dramatically around the leader's call, then rhythmically abstract the pulse; they imply a central rhythm more than state one.
There's no sense of "transition" here – as the album's an incredibly solid one, and stands with John Coltrane's best mid 60s work for Impulse – even if the session wasn't issued by the label until after his early death! The work builds strongly on the Love Supreme vibe – soaring, searching, and finding whole new space in jazz – but all with a unified conception that's driven by an unbridled sense of energy. The group here is the quartet with McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums – and we're still quite puzzled why Impulse never managed to get this one released until a few years later! Titles include "Transition", "Dear Lord", and the side-long "Prayer and Meditation" suite.
John Coltrane returns to the Village Vanguard – but his sound here is a lot more far-reaching than a few years before! The album's a great counterpart to the first Vanguard session – as it takes all of the bold, soaring energy of that date, and balances it with the newly introspective sound of the later Coltrane years – plus some of the freedoms learned from the Love Supreme era. The group here showcases the new territory explored by Coltrane – with Trane himself on tenor, soprano, and a bit of bass clarinet (echoing earlier Dolphy), plus Pharoah Sanders on additional tenor, Alice Coltrane on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Rasheid Ali on drums. The album only features 2 long tracks – an incredibly soulful version of "Naima", and a very firey version of "My Favorite Things", but one that begins with a haunting bass solo by Garrison!
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.
One of the turning points in the career of John Coltrane came in 1965. The great saxophonist, whose playing was always very explorative and searching, crossed the line into atonality during that year, playing very free improvisations (after stating quick throwaway themes) that were full of passion and fury. This particular studio album has two standards (a stirring "Chim Chim Cheree" and "Nature Boy") along with two recent Coltrane originals ("Brazilia" and "Song of Praise"). Art Davis plays the second bass on "Nature Boy," but otherwise this set (a perfect introduction for listeners to Coltrane's last period) features the classic quartet comprised of the leader, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Elvin Jones.
Arguably John Coltrane's finest all-around album, this recording has brilliant versions of "Afro Blue" and "I Want to Talk About You"; the second half of the latter features Coltrane on unaccompanied tenor tearing into the piece but never losing sight of the fact that it is a beautiful ballad. The remainder of this album ("Alabama," "The Promise," and "Your Lady") is almost at the same high level.