Thursday, September 22, 2011

John Coltrane: Live

John Coltrane (sax)
Live At The Jazz Gallery 1960 (RLR; 2011)
McCoy Tyner (piano)
Pete LaRoca (drums)
Steve Davis (bass)

In a similar vein to the Miles Davis Live Europe release, John Coltrane Live At The Jazz Gallery 1960 is a bit of a rare breed. First, there are few live albums from this year. You would normally find dates from '62 onward. Particularly dates when Eric Dolphy was featured in his group. Secondly, Live At The Jazz Gallery was recorded just a few months after Coltrane left the Miles Davis group (shortly after Kind Of Blue).

The quartet is also slightly rare as it was originally a lineup that featured Steve Kuhn (piano) but he left very early on. It would have been interesting to see what the group would have done in the studio had he stayed. In place of Kuhn came what would becoma a long standing relationship with McCoy Tyner.

Jazz Gallery was recorded in June of 1960 and its a weird time period as Coltrane was between albums, having just finished Giant Steps in December of '59 and looking forward into Coltrane's Sound in '60. Working on new material and working with new members.

He was playing live gigs left and right with the Jazz Gallery kind of a standing "extended" run according to all discography information I have looked at. This group featured the brief partnership with Steve Davis and Pete LaRoca. Davis would go on with 'Trane to record Coltrane's Sound and My Favourite Things. LeRoca was replaced by Elvin Jones.

So here we have a document of an extreme moment in time, and recorded actually not too badly. It's not the best sound quality but its better than some of the worst bootlegs you'll hear. 

Coltrane and Tyner quickly seem to meld together and have a unique unity that you could tell would be the foundation for the future. The harmony on "Every Time We Say Goodbye" is something truly beautiful.  "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes" (one of my favourite Trane numbers ever) feel powerful and burst with emotion (even if the sound isn't great). "Body And Soul" has sounded better but you get a nice direction in the styling of both Tyner, Davis and LaRoca who handle the material with a steady calm which is different than some of the other live versions you may have heard.

The highlight as many other who have this disc will tell you is the 30 minute "Liberia". This is a track from Coltrane's Sound which wasn't released until October of 1960, so we get and early incarnation of the this midtempo number. Its a piece in progress and you can feel the group moving in out changes finding where each member works best within the piece. 

As a historical document, Live At The Jazz Gallery is a very important piece in a transitional year for one of thee LEGENDS of jazz. This might only be for the collector but I think even if you are a moderate jazz fan is probably worth owning, just to impress you're friends. For me, this could be my top reissue of the year. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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