Wednesday, September 23, 2009

John Coltrane: My Favourite Things

John Coltrane
(saxophone, b. 1926 - d. 1967)

John Coltrane created some of the most beautiful, challenging and forward-thinking albums during his two decade plus of recording. Coltrane started as a session player in Dizzy Gillespie band before joining Miles Davis and briefly Thelonious Monk. During John Coltrane's early period his fellow musicians and critics considered him to be a legend in the making, he never say himself as that. One of the key players who Coltrane saw as an inspiration was Sonny Rollins. He mentions this during an interview at a concert in Stockholm with the Miles Davis Quartet. Worth listening too not only for the interview but the show is stellar.

While Coltane would go on to be one of the most influential artists across all genres one can only imagine what he would have done after hearing Miles Davis' Bitches Brew.

I thought I would share a brief listing of six John Coltrane CDs I believe will give you a perfect overview of one the greatest musicians of all time. I have also included a selection of compilations after this, that will give those only interested in the nutshell facts a good and broader overview but I highly recommend diving into these albums as a way of familiarize yourself with Trane's attitude towards his instrument and composition.

Traning In (Prestige Records)

Recorded in 1957 with Red Garland (piano), Art Taylor (drums) and Paul Chambers (bass). This was record many feel is Coltrane finally settling on a definitive band after numerous line up changes. The band were also members of Miles Davis' band at the time. Traning In runs the gambit of hard bop and is a nice starting point as you prepare for the classic Blue Train.

Blue Train (Blue Note Records)

Also recorded in 1957 with only Paul Chambers as one of the hold overs for this session. This is also his first recording for Blue Note and now considered one of the classic jazz albums of all time. Featuring Lee Morgan (trumpet), Paul Chambers (bass), Kenny Drew (drums), Curtis Fuller (trombone) and Philly Joe Jones (drums). A wonderful album throughout and you can easily hear Coltrane coming into his own as a major force on the scene after so many albums.You almost have to wonder after listening to Blue Train, what the previous group would have sounded like if they were in this session.

Giant Steps (Warner Brothers)

This is the album many know quite well from the memorable "Naima," "Countdown" and the title track. One of the key things to note about this release (his first for Warner Brothers) is the quality of the all original material and tightness of the musicians Trane had surrounded himself for the session. Still Chambers and Taylor but with the addition of Tommy Flanagan, Cedar Walton, Wynton Kelly, Jimmy Cobb and Lex Humphries. An album that truly stands the test of time over and over and over.

A Love Supreme (Impulse Records)

After solid records for Warner Brothers Trane moved on to Impulse Records and many watched his music begin to inter a whole new stratosphere. This would culminate in yet another groundbreaking recording session. Coltrane's spirituality began to shine through on A Love Supreme. 30+ minutes of bliss that should be listened to in one setting from start to finish to truly feel the full understanding of the session. If you don't get it on the first listen don't worry when it hits you, you won't forget it.

Crescent (Impulse Records)

Recorded just prior to A Love Supreme, Crescent was recorded a number of times (what some would call "a difficult session") in 1964 with McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass) and Elvin Jones (drums). It is a bleak recording session due what could be everything from the technical recording, the tensions between the musicians to the material Trane had written at the time. Nowhere ever as challenging as the records that followed but an excellent example of what you will be in for. Being enveloped by this record as a child was one of the reason this site exists.

OM (Impulse Records)

If you want to be really challenged from all angles than OM is the record for you. A cacophony of sound built on layers of Trane's search for higher spiritualism. Featuring Tyner, Garrison, Jones, Donald Garret, Joe Brazil and Pharoah Sanders, this is one of those records you just have to hear to believe. There aren't many words to describe what OM is expect imagine going to church and having it truly blow your mind.

There are a few multi disc compilations that will also give you an overview of each of Coltrane's monumental periods. Here are a list of box sets I believe represent this best.
Legacy (Impulse Records): Covering each label he recorded for and overseen by his son Ravi. This is probably a great starting point if you want to spend the extra cash.
Heavyweight Champion (Warner Brothers): Filled with alternate takes and upgraded sound quality this 7 disc compilation covers mainly his Warner Brothers years but is also the palatable time period for many new listeners.
The Prestige Recordings (Prestige Records): This compilation cover his early years with Prestige including all the session work with other musician as well as leader. This box set has since been broken properly into two box sets, Fearless Leader and Interplay. Both now give the proper overview of Coltrane as leader and session man.
Gold (Universal Music Group): This is a two disc set that actually gets it right. It doesn't include any material from his Prestige years but does include the most noteworthy material from his Blue Note, Atlantic and Impulse years. An absolute perfect way to start if you don't want to buy the individual albums at all. But I highly recommend that you do.
If you get the chance to listen to any of these records I believe it will help you understand jazz even more. Thanks for reading and listening...

1 comment:

  1. I haven't had mush time for serfing for music. I guess I don't have to go anywhere but your cite. I enjoy jazz with vocals too.