A major event for connoisseurs of John Coltrane
's classic quartet, Favorites Revisited
delivers one and a quarter hours of landmark live recordings in state-of-the-art 21st century audio. Professionally recorded, and therefore sounding pretty good even on original release, the material now benefits from remastering by the ezz-thetics label's sonic jedi Michael Brändli. At times, it almost feels like one is hearing the music for the first time.
A three-track disc, the first two tracks are "Naima" and "My Favorite Things," recorded at the Free University of Berlin in November 1963 at the instigation of Coltrane's tour director, Norman Granz
. They originally appeared on the double LP Afro Blue Impressions
(Pablo Live, 1977). The third track is the "A Love Supreme" suite, recorded at the Antibes Jazz Festival in July 1965. Its first official release was on the double CD A Love Supreme: Deluxe Edition
, released by Impulse in 2002 (it had already been unofficially available for around fifteen years).
One could pretty much stick the proverbial pin in Afro Blue Impressions
and pull out plums. Werner X. Uehlinger, ezz-thetics' director, chose "Naima" because it is his favourite piece on Coltrane's Giant Steps
(Atlantic, 1960), and "My Favorite Things" because of Coltrane's embrace of Richard Rogers' melody: Coltrane improvises on it horizontally, in much the same manner (though in a different style) as Sonny Rollins
might have approached it, rather than constructing a changes-based contrafact and going vertical.
The Berlin performances of both tunes are definitive and it is great to have them with such substantially improved audio. But the main event on Favorites Revisited
is "A Love Supreme." Coltrane seems only twice to have performed live in its entirety his masterpiece of masterpieces. Once at Antibes, the other time in Seattle in October 1965, when the quartet was expanded to a septet. If Coltrane had performed it elsewhere, it is likely that a tape would have surfaced by now.
At 47:15, the Antibes performance, recorded by French national radio station ORTF, is almost fifteen minutes longer than the original studio album; most of the extra time is taken up by an extended version of "Pursuance," the third part of the suite. Though it falls far short of paint-stripping, the performance is further out than the studio version, which in July 1965 was only available in France on import. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the reaction of the non-primed Antibes audience was divided, as French audiences, bless them, so often vociferously are. The following night Coltrane agreed to play more familiar material. The Antibes "A Love Supreme" is, however, exalted, a five-star performance. Every serious Coltrane fan deserves to have it in their library.
The studio A Love Supreme
(Impulse, 1965) was a major seller from the off. By 1966, it was probably the largest-selling single item on the Impulse catalogue and by the end of the decade the label had made it available on LP, cassette, reel-to-reel and even eight-track cartridge. If the chronology of history was otherwise, and Coltrane was alive in summer 2022 with A Love Supreme
just recently released, it is likely that his management would already be putting together The Love Supreme World Tour. Ben & Jerry might even be marketing a Love Supreme sorbet (nice). But for Coltrane, although he was aware of its value, it was "just" another album. In his autobiography, What a Wonderful World: A Lifetime of Recordings
(Oxford University Press, 1995), Coltrane's Impulse producer, Bob Thiele, remembered asking him, circa 1966, "Which album do you really dig the most?" Coltrane replied: "Well, I like them all... [But] after I listen to one for a few weeks, I stop listening and forget about it." Indeed, a month before Antibes, Coltrane had recorded Ascension
(Impulse, 1966). For him, the next chapter had already begun.
Naima; My Favorite Things; A Love Supreme (Acknowledgement, Resolution, Pursuance, Psalm).
John Coltrane: tenor saxophone (1, 3); soprano saxophone (2).