Throughout John Coltrane's discography there are a handful of decisive and controversial albums that split his listening camp into factions. Generally, these occur in his later-period works such as Om and Ascension, which push into some pretty heady blowing. As a contrast, Ballads is often criticized as too easy and as too much of a compromise between Coltrane and Impulse! (the two had just entered into the first year of label representation). Seen as an answer to critics who found his work complicated with too many notes and too thin a concept, Ballads has even been accused of being a record that Coltrane didn't want to make.
The complicated rhythm patterns and diverse sonic textures on Olé Coltrane are evidence that John Coltrane was once again charting his own course. His sheer ability as a maverick – beyond his appreciable musical skills – guides works such as this to new levels, ultimately advancing the entire art form. Historically, it's worth noting that recording had already commenced two days prior to this session on Africa/Brass, Coltrane's debut for the burgeoning Impulse! label. The two sets complement each other, suggesting a shift in the larger scheme of Coltrane's musical motifs. The assembled musicians worked within a basic quartet setting, featuring Coltrane on soprano and tenor sax, McCoy Tyner on piano, and Elvin Jones on drums, with double-bass chores held down by Art Davis and Reggie Workman. Added to that are significant contributions and interactions with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and Eric Dolphy on flute and alto sax (although Dolphy's contract with another record label prevented him from being properly credited on initial pressings of the album). The title track is striking in its resemblance to the Spanish influence heard on Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain.
Each album newly remastered from the original master tapes. The set containing these five classic, influential John Coltrane albums: Africa/Brass (1961), Live At The Village Vanguard (1961), Coltrane (1962), Duke Ellington & John Coltrane (1962), Ballads (1962). If you like jazz and you don't own this then your a mug. Coltrane plays like a nutcase on this record. Coltrane is undoubtedly the scariest pair of lungs to ever touch a Sax. The whole album drags every emotion from your soul and creates something which will either make musicians hesitant to pick up their instruments or forever play with an unimaginable, inexplicable love for this insane thing called music.
One of the most important records ever made, John Coltrane's A Love Supreme was his pinnacle studio outing, that at once compiled all of the innovations from his past, spoke to the current of deep spirituality that liberated him from addictions to drugs and alcohol, and glimpsed at the future innovations of his final two and a half years. Recorded over two days in December 1964, Trane's classic quartet–Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, and Jimmy Garrison– stepped into the studio and created one of the most the most thought-provoking, concise, and technically pleasing albums of their bountiful relationship. From the undulatory (and classic) bassline at the intro to the last breathy notes, Trane is at the peak of his logical and emotionally varied soloing, while the rest of the group is completely atttuned to his spiritual vibe.
Although seemingly impossible to comprehend, this landmark jazz date made in 1960 was recorded in less than three days. All the more remarkable is that the same sessions which yielded My Favorite Things would also inform a majority of the albums Coltrane Plays the Blues, Coltrane's Sound, and Coltrane Legacy. It is easy to understand the appeal that these sides continue to hold. The unforced, practically casual soloing styles of the assembled quartet – which includes Coltrane (soprano/tenor sax), McCoy Tyner (piano), Steve Davis (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums) – allow for tastefully executed passages à la the Miles Davis Quintet, a trait Coltrane no doubt honed during his tenure in that band.
John Coltrane's matchup with singer Johnny Hartman, although quite unexpected, works extremely well. Hartman was in prime form on the six ballads, and his versions of "Lush Life" and "My One and Only Love" have never been topped. Coltrane's playing throughout the session is beautiful, sympathetic, and still exploratory; he sticks exclusively to tenor on the date. At only half an hour, one wishes there were twice as much music, but what is here is classic, essential for all jazz collections.
The superb 2016 six-disc John Coltrane box set The Atlantic Years: In Mono brings together most of the legendary jazz musician's Atlantic albums into one package, restored to their original mono sound. Beginning in 1959, Coltrane's Atlantic years were a transformative time for the saxophonist, during which he furthered his modal explorations and began incorporating aspects of the avant-garde, a vital combination that he would later bring to its pinnacle on his 1965 Impulse! classic, A Love Supreme. Included here are the landmark albums Giant Steps (1960), Bags & Trane (1959) with vibraphonist Milt Jackson, Olé Coltrane (1961) featuring trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, Plays the Blues (1960), and Coltrane's collaboration with maverick pocket trumpeter Don Cherry, The Avant-Garde (1966). Also included is a 32-page book featuring photos by Lee Friedlander and liner notes by writer Ashley Kahn.