Recorded on August 26, 1965 (and not released until after his death in heavily edited form), Sun Ship was the final recording by John Coltrane's quartet with drummer Elvin Jones, pianist McCoy Tyner, and bassist Jimmy Garrison. After nearly four years together, this band had achieved a vital collective identity. When Coltrane moved toward metrically free styles of rhythm and melody (with tunes often based on one chord or a short series of notes as themes), the quartet's rhythmic pulse and collective interplay evolved accordingly. The title track opens with a splintered theme. Garrison and Jones group dramatically around the leader's call, then rhythmically abstract the pulse; they imply a central rhythm more than state one.
There's no sense of "transition" here – as the album's an incredibly solid one, and stands with John Coltrane's best mid 60s work for Impulse – even if the session wasn't issued by the label until after his early death! The work builds strongly on the Love Supreme vibe – soaring, searching, and finding whole new space in jazz – but all with a unified conception that's driven by an unbridled sense of energy. The group here is the quartet with McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums – and we're still quite puzzled why Impulse never managed to get this one released until a few years later! Titles include "Transition", "Dear Lord", and the side-long "Prayer and Meditation" suite.
In the context of the decades since his passing and the legacy that's continued to grow, John Coltrane's Selflessness album bears an odd similarity to Bob Dylan's autobiographical book Chronicles. In Chronicles, Dylan tells the tale of his beginnings, jumping abruptly and confoundingly from his early years to life and work after his 1966 motorcycle accident, omitting any mention of his most popular and curious electric era. The contrast between these two eras becomes more vivid with the deletion of the years and events that bridged them. Released in 1965, Selflessness presents long-form pieces, likewise from two very distinct and separate eras of Coltrane's development.
John Coltrane returns to the Village Vanguard – but his sound here is a lot more far-reaching than a few years before! The album's a great counterpart to the first Vanguard session – as it takes all of the bold, soaring energy of that date, and balances it with the newly introspective sound of the later Coltrane years – plus some of the freedoms learned from the Love Supreme era. The group here showcases the new territory explored by Coltrane – with Trane himself on tenor, soprano, and a bit of bass clarinet (echoing earlier Dolphy), plus Pharoah Sanders on additional tenor, Alice Coltrane on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Rasheid Ali on drums. The album only features 2 long tracks – an incredibly soulful version of "Naima", and a very firey version of "My Favorite Things", but one that begins with a haunting bass solo by Garrison!
Brilliant work from Coltrane – recorded in the 60s, but not issued until the late 70s, and only then, not properly in print until the release of this great package! The material is classic Coltrane Quartet sessions – with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones working with Trane to craft some long tracks that show the expanding genius of the group at the time. The spirit of the work is in the "new thing" mode of the 60s – more adventurous than even Coltrane's work from a few years before – and titles include "Living Space", "Dusk-Dawn", "The Last Blues", and "Untitled 90314".