John Coltrane: Coltrane Sound

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
In all, it was a busy week. Near the end of 1960, John Coltrane owed Atlantic a bunch of albums, due at the close of the year. He did what his old boss had four years earlier: record a whole mass of material all at once. It was the start of Elvin’s stay and the end of Steve Davis’; a group in flux, but a leader in full control. The tunes were done with no album in mind: on Oct. 21 they recorded “My Favorite Things,” and “Village Blues,” which went on Coltrane Jazz. On the 24th they recorded several blues, “Summertime,” “Body and Soul,” and two originals, among them “Satellite.” Work was done on the 26th: three standards (including “Every Time We Say Goodbye”) and three originals (the best being “Equinox.”) The label sorted it out: the commercial sides went on My Favorite Things, the blues tagged for Coltrane Plays the Blues. All else went here: mostly original, this album has a mood like “Things,” only deeper. It searches; introspective, a little sad, and with a sense of wonder. The tracks weren’t planned to go together, but how they fit!

Right off he starts hopping: “Thousand Eyes” starts with hard tone, and glows when Tyner hits the thick chords. You get the old sheets of sound, then, for a moment, the two-note cries and rusty honks of later years. He begins to take the next step; you are a witness. “Central Park” offers different contrasts: the “Giant Steps” progression applied to a ballad, the soprano used much differently than “My Favorite Things.” He sounds like an alto, pausing sweetly as he walks through the park. McCoy brings the stardust, twinkling his solo with the lightest of notes, with the deepest of impact. A nice, quiet, relaxed sort of album — that’s what you expect so far.

And the only thing you should expect from John Coltrane is ... “Liberia” seems like another “Night in Tunisia,” but the bridge is a static one-chord vamp, shades of both “Things” and modal jazz. He looks to the east with an oboe-like sound; Tyner goes deep on the block chords. A fine example of Trane’s restless spirit. “Body and Soul” gives the theme more force than usual; Tyner’s comp sounds like his work on “Four and One.” (Later that day they’d remake the tune, calling it “Mr. Day.”)

“Equinox” shines imperious, as Latin drums open on a weighty blues. The “Four and One” comps return, gracing Trane’s best solo of the set. The slides begin slowly, a confident tone with gradual grit. Nothing too fancy, and Tyner walks simply as it ends. But its sparsity speaks volumes. Then they leap in the stratosphere: “Satellite” starts with “How High the Moon,” then runs heavy through manic changes. Just him, bass, and drums, a format he did not try enough. (He did a few titles for Prestige; this beats them all easily.) It keeps getting better, quoting “Dearly Beloved” and ending with a drum flourish. A fine sendoff; this album, surprisingly understated, grows on you with different colors, a look at the future, and four men playing as one mind — Trane’s. Pretty good for a rush job.

The out takes come from this session; they later appeared on posthumous albums. “26-2” (the second tune cut on the 26th) has a boppish theme but a fairly aimless solo. He’s trying to match the intimacy of the theme; I’m not sure he succeeds. The second “Body and Soul” has Tyner more prominent and a theme more thought than stated. McCoy is stronger here (the same gentle warmth of “My Favorite Things”) but Trane is uneven. He ends terrifically but the rest is a little bit weak. Nice additions, but unnecessary — the album is fine by itself.

As he relates in his Coltrane biography Ascension, Eric Nisenson met Trane the first time when this album came out. He was in a club between shows, looking at the cover with much disapproval. Nisenson described the art as “cut-rate Picasso,” and I agree. Surely it was the only thing Trane disliked about this album.

| Record Label: Rhino Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


More Articles

Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Goat Man & The House of the Dead CD/LP/Track Review Goat Man & The House of the Dead
by Dave Wayne
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2) CD/LP/Track Review TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2)
by Nicola Negri
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Wild CD/LP/Track Review The Wild
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Live At Umbria Jazz" CD/LP/Track Review Live At Umbria Jazz
by James Nadal
Published: March 9, 2016
Read "Henrik Jensen's Followed by Thirteen: Blackwater" CD/LP/Track Review Henrik Jensen's Followed by Thirteen: Blackwater
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 21, 2016
Read "United" CD/LP/Track Review United
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: April 11, 2016
Read "Omío" CD/LP/Track Review Omío
by James Nadal
Published: August 31, 2016
Read "No Parking Any Time" CD/LP/Track Review No Parking Any Time
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: February 12, 2017
Read "Flaga: Book of Angels, Volume 27" CD/LP/Track Review Flaga: Book of Angels, Volume 27
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 14, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!