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John Coltrane: Sun Ship


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John Coltrane: Sun Ship
Why is a 180-gram vinyl reissue of John Coltrane's Sun Ship, remastered from the original tapes, important? If you are old enough, you'll remember the advent of the compact disc. After the CD was introduced in the 1980s, listeners abandoned their vinyl collections in favor of the promise of this new technology which was free from the nasty clicks and pops their LPs delivered. What they gave up in the name of cleanliness did come at a cost, and we're not just talking about the increased retail prices of the compact discs. In the rush to release new music and maybe more importantly, re-release classic albums, the sound quality was often quite poor. Ask any vinyl enthusiast, they will tell you the CD (MP3, WAV, FLAC or AAC) is incapable of capturing the depth and accuracy of the vinyl listening experience.

Enter VMP (Vinyl Me Please) and this boutique pressing of Coltrane's session from August 26, 1965. Listeners will recall the great man passed away in July of 1967 and this album wasn't released until April of 1971. His widow Alice Coltrane prepared the music for release, editing tracks for LP playing time, making Sun Ship anything but an unfinished document. There have been subsequent releases of the complete recording session on Mosaic Records (2013) and Impulse! (2013) with alternative versions, false starts, and incomplete takes. Let's leave the complete sessions to the Coltrane geeks, neither of which have the complete feel as the original selections.

Coltrane's classic quartet of pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones would soon be broken apart as the saxophonist added new musicians in his attempt to venture further and further into free jazz. Sun Ship was recorded between Ascension (Impulse!, 1966) and First Meditations (Impulse!, 1966), and maybe more significant, just after the quartet performed a live version of "A Love Supreme" at the Festival Mondial du Jazz Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, France in July of 1965. This session is evidence of the saxophonist working between two worlds. The five tracks retain the feel of his A Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1965) session, but with an edgier, more agitated sound. The title track finds Coltrane work and rework a simple phrase with a bristling energy that infects Tyner's solo and is driven onward by Jones' muscular drumming. "Dearly Beloved" maintains a ballad-like ceremonial feel as Coltrane explores the upper end of his horn. "Attaining" is the closest the quartet comes to the music on A Love Supreme with Coltrane's incantations with his horn. Like "Psalm," it is easy to hear the saxophonist speaking a prayer of notes here, while the quartet falls easily into the "Love Supreme" mode. Garrison is given center stage with "Ascent," as he delivers a five-plus minute opening solo. The track blossoms into a brief saxophone workout which in live performance might last up to an hour of exploration.

Sun Ship has often been an overlooked addition to the Quartet's catalog. This impressive remastered reissue tells us to pay heed.

Track Listing

Sun Ship; Dearly Beloved; Amen; Attaining; Ascent.


John Coltrane
Jimmy Garrison
bass, acoustic

Album information

Title: Sun Ship | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: VMP Classics



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