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John Coltrane Quartet: Impressions: Graz 1962

Mark Corroto By

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This live concert is a welcome excuse to go to your happy place. Sixty years after John Coltrane's quartet toured Europe, this radio broadcast with its excellent audio fidelity opens like a capsule. Both a time capsule and a seed capsule, one that continues to pollinate today's music.

The year was 1962 and Coltrane had formed his classic quartet with pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Elvin Jones. Of course the "classic" designation would come later, after the Impulse! recordings Coltrane (1962) Ballads (1962), Live At Birdland (1963), Crescent (1964), and of course A Love Supreme (1964). By 1962, the saxophonist had served two long stints with the Miles Davis Quintet, and performed with Thelonious Monk in that six month gig at the Bowery's Five Spot. His career was taking off in multi-directions. He had a jukebox hit with his cover of "My Favorite Things," which he chose to push into the stratosphere by touring Europe with Eric Dolphy in 1961. Dolphy represented Coltrane's restless nature and the changes happening in jazz, from Ornette Coleman to Cecil Taylor. Their reception in 1961 was a mixed bag, some audience members couldn't follow the the more 'out' music, yet devotees couldn't get enough.

Dolphy left to form his own group and the European tour of Coltrane's quartet 1962 included a dozen cities. The Stefaniensaal in Graz, Austria, was the setting for this concert. Many of these live European concerts have been available as bootlegs with often inferior sound. This release, recorded for a radio broadcast (and the anticipated volume 2) has excellent sound.

If there was turmoil surrounding Coltrane's 1961 tour, the saxophonist returned the following year as conquering hero with a quartet hitting on all cylinders. Opening here with "The Inch Worm" (the actual performance order is not maintained) Coltrane returns, as he would often, to the Frank Loesser composition from the 1952 film musical Hans Christian Andersen. It acts much like his cover of "My Favorite Things," in that he can improvise upon a popular song without losing half his audience. With Elvin Jones pouring a continual stream of accelerant with his drumming, Coltrane opens the soprano saxophone's throttle while always returning to the melody. Billy Eckstine's ballad "I Want To Talk About You," originally recorded on Soultrane (Prestige, 1958), is a vehicle for the saxophonist to bare his gentle soul. The unaccompanied opening and closing of the track is the pure magic sound of the great man. McCoy Tyner is featured on a rare take of the standard "Autumn Leaves." Swinging heartily before being chased by Coltrane's soprano, the trio muscles an aggressive swing. The final track is "Impressions," a regular song in the quartet's rotation. You can hear hints of A Love Supreme (which would be recorded two years later) in the solos of both Tyner and Garrison. The exhaustive track, clocking in at 20 minutes, was followed by "My Favorite Things," but we will have to wait until volume 2 is released for that pleasure.

Track Listing

The Inch Worm; I Want to Talk About You; Autumn Leaves; Impressions.

Personnel

John Coltrane: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; McCoy Tyner: piano; Jimmy Garrison: double bass; Elvin Jones: drums.

Album information

Title: Impressions: Graz 1962 | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: ezz-thetics

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