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Columns > Dan Alford - Audio Files

Published: 2004/12/31
by Dan Alford

Coltrane: Small Releases

Quick Picks From the Disc Changer:
The Other Ones, 6/30/98- A fine soundboard. Those were exciting times.
Widespread Panic, Uber Cobra- a dislike the gaps, but still can t stop listening.
Phish, 7/9/03- Piper > Twist from the 7/29/03 official release filler.
Wayne Shorter, Footprints Live- Shorter versions of Shorter classics; pristine sound.
moe., 11/26/04- Damn!
Discman: SKB, 11/14/04- This is the true religion children. Spring for the soundboard download!
These are a couple obscure little Coltrane releases from small companies. They may or may not be easy to find, but I generally jump on this sort of thing whenever I can. Neither of these releases has exceptional sound quality, and may appeal to the hardcore more than the casual listener. Also, check out the 6 disc retrospective set that ran on the now defunct over the spring and summer, if you can.
John Coltrane: Man Made Miles, Classic 7752
This very quirky disc comes Classic Sound Inc., a 1996 release. There is no date or venue info, and there is no sense that the three tracks are from the same gig, or year. The songs are labeled "Man Made Miles", "Stuff I’m Partial To" (the coolest hipsterification of a song title I’ve ever heard), and "MR. R.C.M., JR." They are, in fact, "Mr. PC," "The Red Planet" (making not only cleverly retitled, but mistakenly, cleverly retitled) and My Favorite Things (ditto) from a 1962 Birdland broadcast. The recording is fuzzy, but not bassy, and improves over the course of the three tracks.
The "Mr. PC" is up tempo and fun, quintessential Dolphy era stuff. The Red Planet cuts in
a bit abruptly, but has a fantastically dramatic solo from Tyner that is nothing short of breathtaking. The meat, though, is the 19 minute ender, just soaring right from the outset. At 8 minutes there is a stunning flute solo from Dolphy: he works the theme for about 2 minutes, before sweeping into a wonderfully playful, aerial movement- wind tossed delight. Definitely worth hunting down.

John Coltrane: Live at the Half Note, Laserlight 17193
The 2000 release by Delta Entertainment Corporation’s Laserlight includes liner notes, with a brief bio of Coltrane and a casual reference to the source being a 1963 gig- but theirs is nothing else that would indicate that fact. While Trane s shows from the Half Note were often broadcasted on Saturday nights, I can t find a record that matches this one. There are also pretty stark differences in sonic quality between tracks.
The opening "I Want to Talk about You" is relatively staid until that final solo when Trane stands alone, boldly blowin’. The center of the disc is a sensuous "Brazillia," with forays into the avant garde that are taken that much further by the following, insanely heady "Song of Praise." Within seconds, the tenor cascades and leaps, and cymbals splash and toms thump. Eventually the bounding piano lines overtake the movement and draw the song to a smooth, swinginger passage, grounded and guided by Garrison s now confident bass. The sound stream trills and skips and runs through increasingly pronounced rapids before tumbling over another fall, potent and tremulous. Really excellent playing. Unfortunately the final "One Up, One Down" is bassy and raw and unlistenable.
And for something easily found, and easily enjoyed
John Coltrane, Live at the Village Vanguard/The Master Takes, Impulse IMPD-251
John Coltrane’s performances at New York’s Village Vanguard in the fall of 1961 are legendary. The band was almost solidified into its classic form, and was experimenting wildly, testing the bounds of improvisation and jazz- testing that would change music forever. The last few nights of the nearly two week run were recorded and are available in a variety of forms: Live at the Village Vanguard, Impressions, The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings and Live at the Village Vanguard/The Master Takes.
If you dig Trane, check out the complete recordings, but if your just testing the waters, I suggest The Master Takes as it offers Coltrane as Coltrane wanted to be heard. He selected each of the songs included.
"Spiritual" opens with a slow dirge from Trane. It runs a few bars before Elvin Jones slides in with light cymbals and begins to swing in the breeze. Eric Dolphy plays a nice bass clarinet solo early on, followed by McCoy Tyner. The pianist’s solo is comprised of fast flourishes and climbing squiggles, making it a nice counterpoint to Dolphy’s work. As it cools down, Trane is drawn back into the mix and plays a high barrage of notes before rehashing the dirge, this time with a more dramatic flare.
The second and third tracks are from November second and offer a more playful vision of Coltrane and his band. The standard "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise" begins with a nice upbeat section from Tyner. He races back and forth along the 88 as Reggie Workman works a fine bass line. The piano begins to froth and settles for just a moment before Coltrane drives forward, pushing the rhythm section to keep up with him. His long statements flow like a ribbon in the breeze- bending, snaking, whipping. Elvin steps in and runs with Trane, crashes and fills spilling over right through the end. Similarly, "Chasin’ the Trane" is speedy, Coltrane dancing the introduction before refracting the notes into a wonderfully twisted torrent of clean notes and skwonks. Elvin Jones plays a fuller sound with many more snare fills. With that as a solid bass, Jimmy Garrison (who was not yet Coltrane’s full time bassist) is free to drift out a bit, leaving the hard ideas for a variety of high end lines throughout the song. Meanwhile, Trane continues to literally chase himself, answering his own statements without hesitation. He is the only soloist on this number and does not pause or become repetitive once during the song’s almost 16 minute duration. Amazing!
"India" is calmer and more contemplative. Coltrane’s first solo is high, and in parts, reminiscent of Indian woodwinds. Both Garrison and Workman play bass on this one and they swell to the surface with deep movements that give a real weight to the composition. A little less than six minutes in, Coltrane mimics a raga with flurries of notes before giving way to Dolphy, who bravely paints the smell of incense, the taste of dust and the experience of the crowded streets of Old Delhi. Eventually Coltrane returns, again more reflective in his playing. The bassists fill the area with great heavy notes as Elvin Jones maintains the momentum. As the coda returns, both Dolphy and Coltrane run fast leads, drawing the song to a close.
Finally, a masterful "Impressions", recorded on November 3rd ends the disc. Utterly buoyant, it is a jam in the truest sense. The bands functions as a single entity; each member reacts to the others in a completely organic way. Jimmy Garrison is exceptional, as he responds directly to Coltrane’s leads, yet simultaneously meshes with Jones’s driving kit work. Trane’s leads are compact and equally forward looking in focus. The music is an underground river rushing onward over the rapids and unforeseen waterfalls. Somewhere near the nine-minute mark, Coltrane begins to answer himself again, and in a stunning display, Garrison does the same! The skill level only increases as the quartet slices forward, returning to the coda at full stream to end.

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