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Artist Profiles

Celebrating John Coltrane

By Published: October 13, 2005
"I found out about the recording because the gentleman that discovered it, Larry Applebaum, basically called me as soon as he discovered it, but it actually took him several weeks to get a hold of me because I sort of run around, Monk said. "My reaction was relatively blasé, to tell you the truth. But when Applebaum tracked me down and told me what it was I said 'Send it to me, let me see what it is'. Because you never know what anything really, really is or what anything really, really sounds like.

Lewis Porter, jazz educator and author of John Coltrane: His Life and Music, also played a role in the discovery of the Carnegie Hall concert tape.

"I knew about this about ten years ago, and it's mentioned in my Coltrane book. You always hear about the legendary tape of this, that and those, [and] sometime you go looking for tape, and sometimes you say, 'Well, that would be nice'. But this sounded so hot that I didn't give up on it. As soon as I first became aware of it I contacted the Library of Congress, and basically what I said to them was, I know you have this huge collection of Voice of America tapes, have you gone through them yet, have you catalogued them? And they said 'Well, a lot of them we have, maybe not all of them'. And I said 'Could you take a look because somewhere in there you may have this tape of Monk and Trane together from Carnegie Hall'. And they went and looked and they called me back in a couple of days and said 'No, we don't see any sign of it but we're not done going through the tapes, so you might want to check back with us'. I kept checking back with them and finally [this past] February they did come up with it.

Other than the music itself, another stunning aspect of the CD is the clear sound quality. Due to the skill of T.S. Monk and his sound restoration team, it sounds like Monk and Trane are playing at Sweet Rhythm a month ago instead of a large concert hall almost a half-century ago. "We spent close to two weeks in restoring that tape in what he likes to refer to as 'forensic restoration'. It's way beyond what anybody's ever done with a piece of tape like that. And I have to say, without a doubt, that we did a sparkling job!

But Monk also hears something else beneath the surface of the music. He hears the source of its power. "I remember John Coltrane coming to the house, every day it seemed for months. And my father was very, very intense with this cat. He wasn't yelling and screaming at him but he was being very, very emphatic. In retrospect, he was clearly mentoring [him] and pushing him, and directing him and teaching him. So what I hear in this recording is the result of that mentoring.

"Everyone who has been associated with this find, we all feel like [we've opened] Tutankahmun's tomb or something, Monk said. "This is a once in a lifetime thing to be associated with. This is a rare opportunity where all the generations right now who are avid jazz people who are somewhat divided, will have an opportunity to all agree that this is the shit!

Ashley Kahn, author of the acclaimed book A Love Supreme, wrote the liner notes for the forthcoming 2-CD set One Down, One Up: John Coltrane at the Half Note, another recently discovered recording of a radio broadcast of Coltrane playing with his classic quartet of Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Garrison in 1965.

"John Coltrane treated the Half Note as a sort of personal greenhouse for his musical compositions, Kahn said. "He had the liberty to do stuff there that he could not do in other joints like Birdland, where the set lengths were very established, and the idea of entertaining the patrons was paramount. At the Half Note he could play his legendary half-hour solos. If you wanted to know what was going on with Coltrane and his sound you could go down to the Half Note and check out one of those shows and hear him working out stuff. What he was doing at the Half Note, some people recorded, in particular one very important performance from March of that year where he did a tune called "One Down, One Up. It's loosely based on the same sort of harmonic experimentation that created Giant Steps. That famous bootleg recording of "One Down, One Up became something that was being passed around [among] different players. There's a whole school of players who have responded to this one solo. That's the legendary status that this piece of music has; it is a sort of primer for modern saxophonists, and they look upon it as the sort of idea of where to go and what to do.

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