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1961 at The Village Vanguard

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John Coltrane (Impulse!)

Approaching Seventh Avenue and Perry Street in Manhattan, one is struck by the number of folks lining up and generally milling around waiting in anticipation to descend into what looks like, from the outside, a very small basement, a very small room. This is perhaps the most prestigious and historical jazz room in the country, the Village Vanguard, the club where the spirit of giants and giant music looms large. During the week of September 23, this esteemed club is host of the celebration of the music and legacy of John Coltrane put together by Impulse Records and the Vanguard. Having a major role in a tribute to Coltrane, who died in 1967 is quite appropriate for Lorraine Gordon's club as its stature has only been aided by some recordings that were made there that have become a cornerstone of the jazz cannon.
Of those recordings, one that stands out is Coltrane's fiery: Live at the Village Vanguard from 1961. As a part of their role in this week's events, Impulse has re-issued and released a new, four-disc boxed set called simply: Coltrane: The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings. Apart from the almost indescribable music found within, the Impulse folks have done a very nice job in putting together a handsome package which contains a 46 page booklet, complete with solid liner notes and a poster commemorating this release. To say that this is a must-buy would be an understatement. The power of the playing, not to mention the influence that this group has had on future generations of jazz and non-jazz musicians can not be overstated. Imagine a record that has tunes repeated two or three times (Impressions, Naima, India, Spiritual) with each version a gem. Not a repeated idea other than those phrases that still echo within the halls of jazz history. The interplay of Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Reggie Workman, Elvin Jones and McCoy Tyner is a text book for post-bop and improvisational music in general. Add to that, the venue. The feeling that one gets from just entering the Vanguard: "The high church of jazz" as altoist Antonio Hart has recently said to the New York Times's Peter Watrous can be a mixture of reverence and excitement. Due respect and anticipation.
Hart and Tyner have a few things in common. They are both Impulse artists and, along with other Impulse artists such as Danillo Perez (joined by Michael Brecker), Eric Reed, Donald Harrison, and Diana Krall, will play a night at the Vanguard during this week's run. It should be a fascinating and fun week of performances starting with McCoy alongside Al Foster and George Mraz on 'Trane's birthday, September 23.


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