The jazz world was immersed in controversy in 1965 when the bands of John Coltrane and Archie Shepp appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival. Coltrane's own style was undergoing constant evolution, his lines more convoluted and explosive, his sound increasingly ranging to vocal cries and metallic abrasions. He had also become a figurehead of the "avant-garde" or "New Thing," an established star who provided a public forum for younger musicians and the creative ferment largely taking place out of public hearing.
One of the turning points in the career of John Coltrane came in 1965. The great saxophonist, whose playing was always very explorative and searching, crossed the line into atonality during that year, playing very free improvisations (after stating quick throwaway themes) that were full of passion and fury. This particular studio album has two standards (a stirring "Chim Chim Cheree" and "Nature Boy") along with two recent Coltrane originals ("Brazilia" and "Song of Praise"). Art Davis plays the second bass on "Nature Boy," but otherwise this set (a perfect introduction for listeners to Coltrane's last period) features the classic quartet comprised of the leader, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Elvin Jones.
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.
Considered by many to be his finest single album, Coltrane finds John Coltrane displaying all of the exciting elements that sparked brilliance and allowed his fully formed instrumental voice to shine through in the most illuminating manner. On tenor saxophone, he's simply masterful, offering the burgeoning sheets of sound philosophy into endless weavings of melodic and tuneful displays of inventive, thoughtful, driven phrases. Coltrane also plays a bit of soprano saxophone as a primer for his more exploratory work to follow. Meanwhile, bassist Jimmy Garrison, drummer Elvin Jones, and especially the stellar McCoy Tyner have integrated their passionate dynamics into the inner whole of the quartet.
The album newly remastered from the original master tapes. This set documents the four-night stand by John Coltrane (sax) and his quintet at the Village Vanguard in New York City, November 1 – 5, 1961. Although these are not newly discovered tapes – as the majority of the selections have turned up on no less than five separate releases – their restoration is significant in assessing motifs in Coltrane's [read: multi-show] live appearances. Coltrane is accompanied by an all-star ensemble of Eric Dolphy (alto sax/bass clarinet), Garvin Bushell (oboe/contrabassoon), Ahmed Abdul-Malik (oud), McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass), Reggie Workman (bass), Elvin Jones (drums), and Roy Haynes (drums). Their presence is as equally vital as Coltrane's – inspiring as well as informing the dimensions of improvisation.
The album newly remastered from the original master tapes. John Coltrane assembles a 20-piece band for these three songs. There's McCoy Tyner, Reggie Workman, Elvin Jones, and 16 others. It's heavy on brass, per the title, there are five french horns, for example. There are notable players like Eric Dolphy, Booker Little, Freddie Hubbard, and Julian Priester in the band, but the solos are by Coltrane, Tyner, or Jones. The orchestration was done by Coltrane, Tyner, and Dolphy. The liner notes say Dolphy did a lot of it, later it came out Tyner did more (though Dolphy was no longer around to argue the point). It's not really a big band in the Duke Ellington style, but with all of the horns, it's certainly a big band.
This single-disc Concert in Japan by John Coltrane's 1966 quintet is a reissue of the original double LP that was released as IMR 9036C in 1973. Its three selections include two long instrumental pieces and a spoken introduction of the musicians in Japanese. These performances are compiled from two Tokyo dates. This set is not to be confused with the four-disc document that includes both Tokyo concerts in their entirety. The band here performs a 25-minute "Peace on Earth," a ballad that Coltrane wrote especially for the tour, to express his empathy and sympathy for the nuclear destruction Japan experienced during WWII. The tune moves outside, but stays well within the realm of spiritual boundary-pushing that the band was easily capable of.
Recorded at several sessions in the two years prior to his death but not issued until 1972, Infinity was the subject of much controversy among Coltrane aficionados when it finally appeared. The horror on the part of Coltrane purists was directed to the posthumous string arrangements written by Alice Coltrane, his widow, which were grafted onto the performances. But however much the strings softened or unnecessarily augmented the music, it must be said that Alice Coltrane really didn't do such a bad job and the ultimate result is an unusual and oddly attractive work.
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.
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.