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John Coltrane: Turning Point

Nic Jones By

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The music collected here comes from a period of Coltrane's career, namely the closing years of the 1950s, which so many tenor sax players have latched on to in the decades since. At that stage in his own musical evolution Coltrane's playing was developing that singular edge that was to be the hallmark of the final decade of his life, albeit whilst working within the hard bop parameters he was destined to move well outside of.

He had the idiom signed sealed and delivered before he did so, however, and on "Soultrane" taken from a November, 1958 session in the company of Tadd Dameron on piano, he already shows ample evidence of what was to come, particular via the keening edge on his playing in the upper registers. What's also in evidence is the degree to which he appears to have worked the idiom through as though it was some mathematical conundrum. The resulting and extraordinary logic of his work is there in abundance on Calvin Massey's "Bakai" where he seems to nag at the medium up tempo as if impatient with the restraints it imposes; the fact that this one was recorded a mere six months after the title discussed above makes it's clear that an extraordinary rate of development was taking place.

"While My Lady Sleeps" was cut at the same session and it offers an example of the degree to which Coltrane had pared down his ballad playing even at this point in his life. No note is surplus to requirements in his statement of the theme and the fact that his restless, exploratory bent is so tempered in his solo is one of those qualities which perhaps only come to light with the benefit of hindsight.

Of the three tracks culled from the Traneing In (Original Jazz Classics, 1957) album cut in the company of the Red Garland trio, "You Leave Me Breathless" reiterates the point made above with regards to Coltrane's ballad playing, while "Soft Lights And Sweet Music" highlights how he was burning at up tempos but still falling prey to playing for the sake of playing; there is a disjointed feel to his work here which, perhaps oddly, might not have been true of a player like Hank Mobley at that time and in that setting. "Slow Dance" however is something else, and not simply because it offers an intimation of the aspect of Coltrane's playing that was to be made manifest a few short years later on the Ballads (Impulse!, 1961) album with his 'classic' quartet.

Track Listing: Mating Call; Soultrane; On A Misty Night; Eclypso; Solacium; Bakai; While My Lady Sleeps; Chronic Blues; You Leave Me Breathless; Soft Lights And Sweet Music; Slow Dance.

Personnel: John Coltrane: tenor sax #1-11; Idrees Sulieman: trumpet #4, 5; Johnny Splawn: trumpet #6-8; Sahib Shihab: baritone sax #6, 8; Tadd Dameron: piano #1-3; Tommy Flanagan: piano #4, 5; Red Garland: piano #6, 9-11; Mal Waldron: piano #7, 8; Kenny Burrell: guitar #4, 5; John Simmons: bass #1-3; Doug Watkins: bass #4, 5; Paul Chambers: bass #6-11; Philly Joe Jones: drums #1-3; Louis Hayes: drums #4, 5; Albert 'Tootie' Heath: drums #6-8; Art Taylor: drums #9-11.

Title: Turning Point | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: FiveFour


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