442

John Coltrane: Dakar

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
John Coltrane: Dakar
Often cited as saxophonist John Coltrane's first album as leader, Dakar—recorded on April 20, 1957—is a usurper. Originally credited to the Prestige All Stars (and released as part of a short-lived experiment with 16-rpm discs), it was only credited to Coltrane on its re-release in 1963, when the saxophonist's star was firmly in the ascendant. The Dakar session was one of several Coltrane appeared on as a sideman that week—on the 16th with pianist Thelonious Monk, on the 18th with the Prestige All Stars, and on the 19th with pianist Mal Waldron. He gets no more solo time than either of the other saxophonists, baritone players Cecil Payne and Pepper Adams. Another day, another dollar.
 
If it's anyone's baby, Dakar—here released as part of Prestige's Rudy Van Gelder Remasters series—belongs to Teddy Charles. The vibraphonist and bandleader produced the sessions, composed three of the six tunes, and—crucially—picked the line-up. Clearly, he didn't have a Coltrane album in mind, more a meeting between the elder statesman of bop baritone, Payne, and the younger hard bop stylist, Adams. Coltrane, his tenor already possessing the incisive sound which took wings on Giant Steps (Atlantic, 1959), works like spice amongst Payne's lighter, at times Lester Young-ish tone, and Adams' tougher, more abrasive one (not for nothing was Adams nicknamed The Knife).
 
It's rough and ready music, almost certainly rehearsed for the first time in the studio (with the clock ticking), but it sure is ready. The three saxophonists roar into the opening title track, Payne soloing first, then Coltrane, then Adams. There's a fierce, devil may care atmosphere, rolling around in the sound of the instruments, which establishes a mood sustained throughout the album. There's a telling moment towards the end of the closing "Cat Walk" when Payne's baritone emits a horrible squeak. Even in 1957, most producers would have asked for another take, or got busy with a razor blade. It's retention, for whatever reason (lack of money, lack of time, confidence in the fundamental quality of the music), on the finished album adds to the sense of reportage and the enjoyment.
 
There's just one ballad, Waldron's "Velvet One," on which Coltrane's tenor states the theme over soft riffing from Payne and Adams, and which gives a taste of the lyrical magic Coltrane would later weave on Ballads (Impulse!, 1962).
 
A minor chapter in the Coltrane canon it may be, but Dakar is a characterful set of propulsive, pre-codification hard bop and still a delight over half a century later.


Track Listing: Dakar; Mary's Blues; Route 4; Velvet Scene; Witches Pit; Cat Walk.

Personnel: John Coltrane: tenor saxophone; Cecil Payne: baritone saxophone; Pepper Adams: baritone saxophone; Mal Waldron: piano; Doug Watkins: bass; Art Taylor: drums.

Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Prestige Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark CD/LP/Track Review The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Les Deux Versants Se Regardent CD/LP/Track Review Les Deux Versants Se Regardent
by John Sharpe
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Molto Bene CD/LP/Track Review Molto Bene
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Fellowship CD/LP/Track Review Fellowship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 22, 2017
Read E.S.T. Symphony CD/LP/Track Review E.S.T. Symphony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 22, 2017
Read "Live At Blues Alley" CD/LP/Track Review Live At Blues Alley
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: August 4, 2016
Read "Chance Meeting" CD/LP/Track Review Chance Meeting
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 28, 2016
Read "On Ceremony" CD/LP/Track Review On Ceremony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: July 17, 2016
Read "Handel:  Complete Harpsichord Music" CD/LP/Track Review Handel: Complete Harpsichord Music
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 2, 2016
Read "Our Second Set" CD/LP/Track Review Our Second Set
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 23, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

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!