This second volume in Universal/Impulse's reissuing of the albums of John Coltrane contains some choice titles. For those who love the early Impulse Trane, there is certainly something here for you in the John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman collection of ballads. There's also the excellent quartet era with Live at Birdland, Crescent, and the seminal A Love Supreme, the record that changed everything ever after for him. In addition, there is the 1963 album Impressions, a compilation of sorts. There is a long quartet selection called "Up 'Gainst the Wall" (1962), a beautiful but brief "After the Rain" with drummer Roy Haynes sitting in for Elvin Jones from 1963, the title cut, and opening number "India," recorded with Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet and Reggie Workman as an additional bassist.
Here it is: eight CDs worth of John Coltrane's classic quartet, comprised of bassist Jimmy Garrison, pianist McCoy Tyner, and drummer Elvin Jones, recorded between December of 1961 and September of 1965 when the artist followed his restless vision and expanded the band before assembling an entirely new one before his death. What transpired over the course of the eight albums and supplementary material used elsewhere is nothing short of a complete transfiguration of one band into another one, from a band that followed the leader into places unknown to one that inspired him and pushed him further. All of this transpired in the span of only three years.
Recorded eight months before his death from liver cancer, the concert album Offering: Live at Temple University features legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane performing with his quintet in his hometown of Philadelphia on November 11, 1966. Although it's been available in various incomplete bootleg forms over the years, Resonance's Offering is the first official, complete, and fully mastered version to be released. Produced from a set of long-lost master tapes rediscovered by Coltrane's son, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, Offering showcases the late jazz innovator's final ensemble featuring his wife, keyboardist Alice Coltrane, saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, bassist Sonny Johnson (sitting in for Jimmy Garrison), drummer Rashied Ali, and a coterie of local guest musicians.
John Coltrane's Crescent from the spring of 1964 is an epic album, showing his meditative side that would serve as a perfect prelude to his immortal work A Love Supreme. His finest quartet with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones supports the somewhat softer side of Coltrane, and while not completely in ballad style, the focus and accessible tone of this recording work wonders for anyone willing to sit back and let this music enrich and wash over you. While not quite at the "sheets of sound" unfettered music he would make before his passing in 1967, there are hints of this group stretching out in restrained dynamics, playing as lovely a progressive jazz as heard anywhere in any time period.
Influential French label Owl was set up in 1976 by photographer Jean-Jacques Pussiau, but it concentrated less on homegrown talent (though it showcased the late Michel Petrucianni) than on reviving overlooked talents and helping celebrated ones find new or rekindled intimacies. Of a current batch of Owl reissues, this 1987 recording led by sometime Miles Davis saxophonist Dave Liebman checks 10 John Coltrane compositions, half with an acoustic band, half with a Miles/Weather Report-like fusion one. Liebman can be as fast-moving and harmonically advanced as the late Michael Brecker, but has his own subtly nuanced tone, skewed intervals (Indian music has been a big influence) and timing. He's tender on an atmospheric Crescent (with Eddie Gomez's bass), After The Rain, and on a yearning Dear Lord (with Jim Beard's strings-like synths), and turns Dahomey Dance into a scything soprano-sax and funk blues. It's wonderful sax, and since Liebman isn't a Coltrane clone, it's also different from the usual tributes - even if the second half shows its age a little.