The album ASCENSION played a profoundly important role in John Coltrane's final period. Recorded in June 1965, almost exactly two years before his death, this session marks Coltrane's final stepping off point into free jazz. The album also marks a division for Coltrane's fans, as there are some that applaud his final escape from jazz tradition while others simply couldn't follow him into the great unknown.
Recorded at two sessions in early 1967, Expression represents John Coltrane's final recording sessions just months before his death. A varied and searching record, Coltrane shares space with fellow universal travelers Pharoah Sanders, Jimmy Garrison, Rashied Ali, and wife Alice Coltrane. This band, working hard during the time leading up to Coltrane's demise, was performing in the most spiritually reaching territory Coltrane would aspire to. This is evidenced by the burning tenor/drum duet section of "Offering," perhaps the highlight of these sessions. Coltrane and Ali spiral into the far reaches here with a boundless energy that somehow remains controlled and restrained even in its rawest moments.
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.
John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, really setting fire here in a classic live performance from the mid 60s – one of those very long, open-ended concert dates that was arguably even more impressive than some of Coltrane's studio album! The set was recorded in 1965, but not issued until a few years after Coltrane's death – and it's an amazing representation of the bold steps forward that Trane was taking at the time – working with Sanders in a set of very spiritual expressions that run in these out, open ways that are even different from the Coltrane sound of the year before!
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.
Issued in 1968, more than a year after John Coltrane's death, Cosmic Music is co-credited to John and Alice Coltrane. Trane appears on only two of the four tracks here (they are also the longest): "Manifestation" and "Dr. King." They were both cut in February of 1966 at Coast Recorders in San Francisco, with the great saxophonist fronting his final quintet with Alice, Pharoah Sanders, Jimmy Garrison, Rashied Ali, and Ray Appleton adding percussion. "Manifestation" is also the first recorded instance of Sanders playing the piccolo in addition to his tenor saxophone; he takes an extended solo on the instrument. "Dr. King" was written to honor the civil rights leader during his lifetime. King's assassination occurred less than a year after the saxophonist's death.
A pure statement of being and essence – and one of John Coltrane's spiritual masterpieces from the 60s! The 1965 recording was one of Trane's most adventurous so far – as it featured just one album-length track, building up out of relatively free expressions from Coltrane in the studio – initially in the spirit of Love Supreme, but much sharper-edged and unbridled overall – as if the meditative spirit of the previous recording had unlocked a sense of freedom that refused to be tied down to simple structures! The group is great – and features Pharoah Sanders on tenor, Donald Garrett on bass clarinet, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums – plus a bit of flute and percussion from Joe Brazil. The playing is much freer than on other albums of the time, but also has some introspective spiritual moments – clearly inspired by the Love Supreme recording, but taken a shade outside as well!