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John Coltrane: Afro Blue Impressions

C. Michael Bailey By

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John Coltrane

Afro Blue Impressions

OJC

1963/2013

When considering the panoply of music living beneath the banner of Concord Music Group, there should be no problem understanding the company's reissue policy, which has been curious. Any wrinkles in such logic smooth out when anniversaries are celebrated. Concord recently acknowledged what is the first of several remastered groups of recordings celebrating Riverside Records 60th anniversary with the copious release of remastered albums of Julian Julian "Cannonball" Adderley's 1959 Things Are Getting Better, guitarist Wes Montgomery's So Much Guitar, trumpeter Chet Baker's Chet Baker Plays The Best Of Lerner & Loewe (OJC/Riverside, 1959/2013), baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan's Mulligan Meets Monk (OJC/Riverside, 1957/2013) and pianist Bill Evans' How My Heart Sings (OJC/Riverside, 1962/2013).

Concord has slated a similar release schedule for the 40th Anniversary of Norman Granz's last recording endeavor, Pablo Records. In addition to straight remasters, Concord has brought together live recordings previously parceled out over several albums onto a single more cogent and representative release. The first of these is a double anniversary celebration when saxophonist John Coltrane's Afro Blue Impressions turns 50, as Pablo reaches 40 years old.

Originally released as a two-LP set, Afro Blue Impressions contained nine live performances recorded in Berlin in November, 1962 and Stockholm in October, 1963, recorded with his classic quartet featuring pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones. The newly remastered compilation contains an additional three performances from the Stockholm concert ("Naima," "I Want To Talk About You" and "My Favorite Things") that were previously released on The European Tour (Pablo, 1980) and Live Trane: The European Tours (Pablo, 2001).

How Granz came into possession of these Coltrane tapes at a time when the saxophonist was committed to Impulse! Records is a bit of a question. Granz recorded and released on Pablo mostly acts that he personally managed. His Pablo imprint did not start releases until 1973, a full decade after these Coltrane sides were recorded. The material comprising the Coltrane Pablo corpus were recorded between Duke Ellington and John Coltrane (Impulse!, 1962) and John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman (Impulse!, 1962) and Live at Birdland (Impulse!, 1962). While a mystery, the pedigree of these recordings is beside the point as they capture Coltrane approaching his 1964 zenith with A Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1965) and his probing recordings beyond.

The state of John Coltrane in 1962-63 was one of expansive harmonic growth. Like Miles Davis before him, Coltrane clung to his classic quartet's book, exploring and re-exploring "My Favorite Things," "Naima," "I Want to Talk About You," and "Impressions." Coltrane was still melodically directed at the time of these recordings, but one could already tell that he was en route toward Live at the Half Note: One Down, One Up (Impulse!, 1965/2005) and New Thing at Newport (Impulse!, 1965), where his performance fractured as he delved inward, toward the core of sound.

These performances find Coltrane at the height of his creative powers, forcing the edges of the music further and further out. We are still well before the hour-long tenor saxophone/drums duets and Coltrane's contributions to and expansion of free jazz. Two performances each of "I Want To Talk About You" and "My Favorite Things" offer a glimpse into Coltrane's creative process, where he takes these standards, consumes them and renders them into new and vital. This is the artist hitting his stride.

Tracks: CD1: Lonnie's Lament; Naima; Chasin' The Trane; My Favorite Things; Afro Blue; Cousin Mary. CD2: I Want to Talk About You; Spiritual; Impressions; Naima; I Want to Talk About You; My Favorite Things.

Personnel: John Coltrane: tenor and soprano saxophones; McCoy Tyner: piano; Jimmy Garrison: bass; Elvin Jones: drums.

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