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.
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.
The tenor sax giant had signed with another label when he embarked on this one-off date for Blue Note, an excursion that paid off with an enduring modern jazz masterpiece. Boasting volley after volley of smart soloing and intuitively swinging rhythm work, Blue Train is a joy, from the coolly precise ensemble entry on the opening title piece through the set's balance of elegant hard bop conversations and smooth downshifts into ballads. John Coltrane wrote four originals for the date, all of them now regarded as standards, and assembled a rhythm section including pianist Kenny Drew, Miles Davis's rhythm section of bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones, and trumpeter Lee Morgan and trombonist Curtis Fuller, both recent Blue Note recruits. Coltrane's signature sound, now fully developed but still hewing more to familiar blues and chromatic harmonies than his later modalities, is confident and expansive, and his partners respond vividly throughout.
History will undoubtedly enshrine this disc as a watershed the likes of which may never truly be appreciated. Giant Steps bore the double-edged sword of furthering the cause of the music as well as delivering it to an increasingly mainstream audience. Although this was John Coltrane's debut for Atlantic, he was concurrently performing and recording with Miles Davis. Within the space of less than three weeks, Coltrane would complete his work with Davis and company on another genre-defining disc, Kind of Blue, before commencing his efforts on this one. Coltrane (tenor sax) is flanked by essentially two different trios.