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John Coltrane: Offering: Live At Temple University

Chris M. Slawecki By

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Offering: Live at Temple University finally and officially releases the John Coltrane concert (in)famous for him singing with his voice in addition to singing through his saxophone during several pieces. Released on the saxophonist's 88th birthday (September 23, 2014), it presents a genuinely legendary 1966 performance in a small hall about ten blocks from Coltrane's own home in his adopted Philadelphia hometown, plus a snapshot of one of his most musically combustible ensembles: His wife Alice Coltrane on piano, Pharoah Sanders on second tenor and piccolo, Rashied Ali on drums, Sonny Johnson on bass (Johnson's brother Dewey Johnson played trumpet on Coltrane's jazz landmark Ascension released the year before [1965, Impulse!]), here joined by several local percussionists and saxophonists.

Offering blows a jazz hurricane of ferocious intensity. Their twin tenors in "Crescent" contrast Coltrane's muscular melodicism with Sanders' free-jazz screams, with every instrument except for Ali's drums seeking shelter from Sanders' storm. Coltrane's tenor in the final seven-minute passage of this tune, accompanied only by percussion and drums, displays in sharp and brilliant color his fearless explorations of avant-garde and African music through modern jazz.

"Leo" opens with Trane and Sanders bleating out inversions of the bebop classic "Salt Peanuts," which Sanders quickly shreds into shrieking tenor sounds. While these two lead saxophones galvanize the music, the piano, drums and percussion roll together ebbing and flowing, radiant pulses of rhythm and sound. Coltrane briefly sings to counterpoint Sanders' tenor, reenters on soprano, and later sings again—pure dusky vocal ejaculations of musical ecstasy, his voice straining toward lines that his saxophone eventually picks up to echo and more expansively explore before "Leo" fades away like a passing thunderstorm. In the concluding tour de force "My Favorite Things," Alice's piano solo sounds just as kinetic as her husband's saxophone, and as she splatters notes in every direction it is easy to hear the power and vision that made Coltrane's wife such an obvious choice to fill the majestic piano chair vacated by McCoy Tyner.

So while Offering: Live at Temple University officially and finally releases the John Coltrane concert famous for him singing, it delivers so much more, and is so much more important, than that. "For me, the Temple recording is an affirmation that, no, he didn't exhaust the saxophone," explains saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, John and Alice's son. "The saxophone was just a tool, one over which he had a master's command. His voice was an extension of the saxophone as the saxophone was an extension of his voice. When you hear that transition on 'Leo,' it's totally seamless in energy, vibe and intention."

A 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation, Resonance Records is contributing a portion of every CD and LP sold to The John Coltrane Home, an organization devoted to the preservation of Coltrane's former home in Dix Hills, New York.

Track Listing: (Disc 1) Naima; Crescent. (Disc 2) Leo; Offering; My Favorite Things

Personnel: John Coltrane: tenor and soprano saxophone, flute, vocals; Pharoah Sanders: tenor saxophone, piccolo; Alice Coltrane: piano; Sonny Johnson: bass; Rashied Ali: drums; Arnold Joyner: alto sax; Steve Knoblauch: alto sax; Umar Ali: conga; Robert Kenyatta: conga; Charles Brown: conga; Algie DeWitt: bata drum.

Title: Offering: Live At Temple University | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Impulse!

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