Rudy Van Gelder's Hackensack, New Jersey studio was the East Coast destination of choice in the 1950s and '60s for small jazz labels like Prestige and Blue Note. The amount of one-day, no-rehearsal blowing sessions made up of blues, ballads and burners that Van Gelder engineered is monumental. Traneing In is a prime example of what can happen with the right musicians at the right time. Recorded on August 23, 1957, this highly advanced hard bop set was led by a maturing John Coltrane, who was halfway through his one-year hiatus from Miles Davis' group and one month shy of recording his classic Blue Trane for Blue Note.
The title track, a medium tempo blues with a bridge, opens auspiciously with the rhythm section of pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Art Taylor. Garland warms up the session with a lengthy solo mixing eighth-note runs and punctuated block chords. When Coltrane finally enters almost four minutes into the tune, he plays a highly charged solo that he lays out like a road map for new directions in jazz under the saxophonist's lead.
Chambers opens up "Slow Dance with a series of double and triple stops resembling a guitar-type chord melody. This is not what you would expect to hear from a bassist in 1957. Chambers' precision and sureness, whether walking or soloing, is incomparable for the era and, like Coltrane, forward-thinking. The entire recording is a showcase for the young bassist, who was riding high as a member of Miles Davis' classic 1950s quintet.
"Bass Blues" lets the bass fun continue; Chambers plays the melody in unison with Coltrane and later takes a swinging bowed solo. Taylor, who is rock-solid throughout, manages a short and unsurprisingly hip drum solo. Taylor's presence on this date is significant as he, along with Chambers, would appear on Coltrane's landmark Giant Steps in 1959.
After a gorgeous rendering of the Friedrich Hollaender ballad "You Leave Me Breathless, the session ends on a whirlwind with "Soft Lights And Sweet Music. Coltrane manipulates the breakneck tempo with dogged determination and remarkable fluidity. Traneing In is an indispensable snapshot of one of the most exciting periods in jazz history.
Personnel: John Coltrane: tenor sax; Red Garland: piano; Paul Chambers: bass; Art Taylor: drums.