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John Coltrane: Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album

Karl Ackermann By

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Half a century after his passing, the music of John Coltrane continues to be studied, analyzed and enjoyed for its historical and musical exceptionality. Every few years it seems that another undiscovered collection surfaces and is met with enviable enthusiasm, much of it centered around speculating where Coltrane's music was going at a point in time, and the unanswerable question of where it may have ended up. Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album captures the saxophonist on the brink of another creative leap as it bridges the same quartet from Coltrane (1962) to Crescent (1964), both on the Impulse! label.

Rudy Van Gelder recorded this material at his famed Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey studio in 1963 but the master tapes had been lost. Coltrane's first wife Naima was in possession of the high-quality reference tape from which this recording was made. The quartet—arguably Coltrane's best—featured Elvin Jones on drums, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and pianist McCoy Tyner. Coltrane plays tenor on most of the familiar compositions and soprano on other pieces including two original and untitled compositions.

It is one of those originals, "Untitled Original 11383 (Take 1)" that opens the collection and sets the tone for the experimentation to come. The liner notes explain that the album title derives from a Coltrane comment made to Wayne Shorter in the late 1950s: ..."about starting a sentence in the middle, and then going to the beginning and the end of it at the same time...both directions at once." To an extent, the classic "Nature Boy" expands and elaborates the melody though its minor key gives it a more muted feel. "Vilia" and "Impressions" skirt the "sheets of sound" approach that Coltrane and Miles Davis developed, each piece taking its improvisations to new vistas—ones that Coltrane would advance on future albums.

Impulse! has released Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album in double vinyl, CD and digital versions. The "Deluxe" version of the album includes three additional takes of "Impressions" and two additional takes of "Untitled Original 11386." Both Directions... is not essential Coltrane but neither is it just a historical artifact. The music—even the many alternate takes—is immensely good and most fans will be happy to keep this one in their rotation for the long term.

Track Listing: CD 1: Untitled Original 11383; Nature Boy ; Untitled Original 11386 (Take 1); Vilia (Take 3); Impressions (Take 3); Slow Blues; One Up, One Down (Take 1). CD 2: Vilia (Take 5); Impressions (Take 1); Impressions (Take 2); Impressions (Take 4); Untitled Original 11386 (Take 2); Untitled Original 11386 (Take 5); One Up, One Down (Take 6).

Personnel: John Coltrane: saxophone; McCoy Tyner: piano; Jimmy Garrison: bass; Elvin Jones: drums.

Title: Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album Deluxe Edition | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Impulse!

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