All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

407

John Coltrane: The John Coltrane Quartet Plays

Robert Spencer By

Sign in to view read count
“Chim Chim Cheree”? Sure. The guy has a hit with “My Favorite Things,” and some record company executive with gold chains sticking out of his chest hairs says, “Johnny! We love this far out stuff, this ‘Chasin’ the Trane’ stuff. Beautiful. You’re a spiritual cat, you know, Trane (may I call you Trane)? And I respect that. I do. But hey, we want to sell records, you know what I’m saying. You want to reach people. You want more people to pick up on what you’re saying. ‘A love supreme,’ right? So how about going back to the Julie Andrews thing one more time?”

Maybe it’s only like that in the movies and Ornette Coleman biographies. Maybe “Chim Chim Cheree” here was a way to recreate the “My Favorite Things” situation in the studio and show how much had changed in five years. McCoy Tyner was still on piano and Elvin Jones on drums. Jimmy Garrison had come into the group as the bassist in between the two recordings, but what had really changed was the leader’s intentions. While “My Favorite Things” is sunny, “Chim Chim Cheree” is full of foreboding. The fury with which he improvises (on soprano) on this track was certainly a harbinger. In fact, all through this recording the intensity has been turned up a notch since A Love Supreme, the immediately preceding quartet recording.

“Brazilia” was also recorded before, during the Live at the Village Vanguard sets in 1961. But here again, the mood is darker, the pace more intense, the virtuosity from all four players absolutely shattering. The highlight of the album is another unlikely piece, the Nat King Cole workout “Nature Boy.” Here Art Davis joins the quartet as a second bassist, ready to weave dark bowed lines here behind Coltrane’s warning theme statement. “Song of Praise” is another rubato ballad in the tradition of “Psalm” and “Alabama.” But the mood of this album is not broken in its fury and darkness. The music is often arresting and moving, but it certainly does seem as if the calm attainment of A Love Supreme has somehow been broken.

The new release of this CD has three bonus tracks. Two are different outtakes, and the other a live version, of “Nature Boy,” each quite fascinatingly different from one another and from the master take. The third is yet another unlikely piece, Anthony Newley’s “Feelin’ Good.” Only here is the prevailing spell broken, and just for a moment one gets the idea that the master might indeed be feelin’ good.

This is great music from a great musician. On that basis alone it stands. On another level it is as interesting a glimpse into the inner life of an artist as Mingus’ The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady or Mingus Plays Piano. The glimpse seems to reveal a troubled soul, and yet for all his openness about his spiritual journey and its vicissitudes, John Coltrane remains relatively inscrutable. Certainly he went against the grain of the prevailing religious attitudes of his day and ours by giving works of unsurpassed fury and ferocity titles like “Song of Praise,” Ascension, or “The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.” Maybe in doing so he was shedding light on a deeper truth. Spirituality is only unflaggingly comfortable to the superficial and the poseur; John Coltrane seems to have been neither. The John Coltrane Quartet Plays seems a bit of a misnomer for a work of such seriousness and intensity; in any case, it is an invaluable record of a man struggling to attain to greater clarity of vision.


Title: The John Coltrane Quartet Plays | Year Released: 1997 | Record Label: Impulse!

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Paul Heller Meets Roman Schwaller CD/LP/Track Review
Paul Heller Meets Roman Schwaller
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 18, 2018
Read Change In The Air CD/LP/Track Review
Change In The Air
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 18, 2018
Read Vera CD/LP/Track Review
Vera
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 18, 2018
Read In Motion CD/LP/Track Review
In Motion
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 18, 2018
Read Marshian Time Slip CD/LP/Track Review
Marshian Time Slip
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: September 18, 2018
Read Four On The Road CD/LP/Track Review
Four On The Road
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 17, 2018
Read "Float Upstream" CD/LP/Track Review Float Upstream
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 26, 2017
Read "Jondo" CD/LP/Track Review Jondo
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 21, 2017
Read "Toot Suite" CD/LP/Track Review Toot Suite
by Nicholas F. Mondello
Published: February 23, 2018
Read "Baby's Party" CD/LP/Track Review Baby's Party
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 22, 2018
Read "Provenance" CD/LP/Track Review Provenance
by Mark Sullivan
Published: October 4, 2017
Read "Rabbits on the Run" CD/LP/Track Review Rabbits on the Run
by Glenn Astarita
Published: August 21, 2018