Sunday, 16 February 2014

Review: John Coltrane - Coltrane

'Coltrane', one of John Coltrane's first sessions for Impulse, is simultaneously one of the least well-known of the great saxophonists releases, and one of the most favourite amongst his fans. Eponymously titled and lacking any particular specific theme along the same lines as say the overt spirituality of 'A Love Supreme', the obvious romanticism of 'Ballads', or the large ensemble arrangements of 'Africa/Brass', means that it is often confined by many lazy first-timers as being 'just another' in Coltrane's admittedly vast discography. They're wrong.

To start things off, the album opens with a bona-fide classic, here in the form of 'Out Of This World'. At fourteen minutes it's clearly the intended centrepiece, and for those minutes it creates a spellbindingly hypnotic sound that boasts an intense and swirling tenor sax lead. So enamoured with this composition would 'Trane be, that he would throughout his career frequently choose it as a concert staple, sitting up there with other such pieces as 'Naima' and 'My Favorite Things'.

It though is not the only tune here - even if it is the most famous. 'Miles Mode' shows a satisfyingly harder sound to 'Trane's tenor playing, one that is evenly balanced by McCoy Tyner's shimmering crystal clear piano work, while 'Tunji' offers more complex eastern-sounding moves that subtly oozes just the right hint of menace. And for the fans of Coltrane's gentler more romantic side, 'Soul Eyes' more than hits the mark, while 'The Inchworm' showcases the lilting and yearning qualities of 'Trane's second trademark sound on the soprano saxophone.

Despite, and also because of, the wide ranging variety in styles in this session, it all adds up to make an incredibly satisfying listen, which purely on musical merit is enough to recommend this album. But on top of that, for trivia fans, this is the first solely 'classic quartet' recording of Coltrane, Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones; and that surely should make this somewhere near the top of anyone’s to-get Coltrane list.


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