Tuesday, September 7, 2010

John Coltrane: Live In France

John Coltrane (sax)
Live In France: July 27/28 1965 (Gambit Records)
McCoy Tyner (piano)
Jimmy Garrison (bass)
Elvin Jones (drums)

1965 was a furious time for John Coltrane. He had just come off the recording of the future landmark, A Love Supreme a year earlier and now was in mist of a series of quartet and ensemble sessions. By June of '65 Coltrane had recorded The Quartet Plays, OM, Kulu Se Mama, Selflessness and another landmark recording to rival A Love Supreme--Ascension.

Ascension was a massive work that feature a who's who of future jazz legends (Freddie Hubbard, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, Art Davis, Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones, Marion Brown, Dewey Johnson and McCoy Tyner). It is another spiritual masterpiece that is difficult for the average Coltrane fan to get their head and ears around. It is a cavalcade of sound and emotion that is similar in scope to OM. Shortly after its release Coltrane set out on a European tour with his current quartet. This formed the basis for the Live In France release.

A some people may know the French tour dates started on July 26 with a rare live performance of the complete A Love Supreme. This is now available on the deluxe version of the album that you can find a most record stores. The following two nights had been previously unavailable and they are well worth checking out. The main reason for this is the performance of "Ascension," which Coltrane at this point is not known to have been performed live outside of this occasion (please feel free to correct us if we are wrong).

The additional interesting part here is that the two performances of "Ascension" are done as a quartet. The original studio recording was done as a tentet. It is historic and amazing to hear this masterpiece in a much smaller setting and stripped of the larger free form aesthetics. The piece still keeps its rich, bold and illustrious beauty but it now encompasses a more intimate feeling that allows the listener a bit more time to concentrate and develop their own meaning. When you put these versions along side the original you do get two distinct versions which is truly the mark of greatness.

Live In France also includes stellar versions of "Afro Blue," "Impressions," "Naima" and "My Favourite Things"--all of which are have a dynamic element within themselves. The drum work from Jones on "Afro Blue" is incredible. McCoy Tyner delivers in magnificent fashion both nights on "Impressions." Coltrane is in blistering form on both nights and the sound quality is superb (I believe taken from a French radio program).

Live In France is probably only for the completest but it is an excellent document to go along side the A Love Supreme deluxe edition if you have it. A real treat for a Sunday afternoon listening session.

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