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Published: 2006/12/21
by Dan Alford

Impressions of The European Tours, Vol. I

Quick Picks From the Disc Changer:
There’s glut of recordings from The Slip circulating right now on many different trackers- these are all exceptional sounding recordings.
The Slip, 3/31/06- Jam > Pride Jam > Even Rats opener
The Slip, 11/21/06- Crazy Paper Birds > Children of December
The Slip, 11/28/04- The new-classic acoustic show from The Narrows
The Slip, 12/1/06- FM broadcast of a free noon time show
The Slip, 8/11/00- The classic Berkfest Saturday night set

The following are all from the John Coltrane, Live Trane: The European Tours box set- a truly wonderful and worthwhile investment.

Disc 3, Paris 11/17/62 & Stockholm 11/19/62 (Naima only)

At fifteen minutes, “Mr. PC” is a shorter version than most, but it’s loaded with everything you want, especially vitality. The opening notes glisten and Garrison and Tyner are nearly preternatural in their symbiotic first improv. There is a brief bit of piano clomping just before Elvin Jones takes over that just makes me smile. The drummer has been riding up and Tyner marks the passing of the torch. Trane’s lead is tight and fast and his band mates stay with him throughout- a great example of the four-headed hydra. At twelve minutes, he steps back from the mic, still playing, but allowing Jones to take control briefly before the quartet tears into the finale.

Disc 4, Stockholm 11/19/62

The lengthy versions of “Traneing In” and “Bye Bye Blackbird” that start this disc are both available on the release Bye Bye Blackbird. The first tune begins with a great, uproarious charge from Elvin and McCoy, followed by a particularly bouncy and clear sounding bass solo. It’s totally hoppin’ and when the other three shine in, the music swirls and smiles. Trane’s blowing becomes especially wild and draws Elvin far a field- it’s really aggressive stuff for 62. Eventually the tenor shakes loose and cuts into an entirely free zone- Elvin’s there, but he’s definitely in a supporting role. This solo stretches and twists and bucks and kicks for minutes on end. It’s the single most outrageous track on the seven discs of music in this set.

Disc 5, Stockholm 10/22/63

The tracks on this disc are mostly available on previous releases (“Naima“, “The Promise” and “I Want to Talk About You” on The European Tour and Spiritual and “Impressions” on the classic Afro Blue Impressions), and so available to those not yet ready to commit to a $100+ box set. “The Promise” has a wildly spinning jam between McCoy ands Jimmy with Elvin splashing behind. Jimmy’s voice is clear and strong as he sings along with his playing, toying in the upper registers. Trane only declares the theme at the very end, making for an interesting trio version “Spiritual” has a totally dramatic Trane and Jones intro that slips so smoothly into the groove when Garrison moseys in. That same drama resurfaces toward the end of the first solo when the drums swell up to meet the tenor’s clarion call. At about nine minutes, the tune grows so low and mellow that it seems to wind down only to open on the third Trane/Jones bout that brings it all full circle.

Disc 7 Berlin 11/2/63 & 11/4/63 (“Impressions” only)

The bulk of this disc is also available on Afro Blue Impressions. The first title track is a scorching version of the Mongo Santamaria cover. When Trane explodes at three minutes, he’s bunched up in the high registers like fire in the sky Tyner is comping left and right on “Cousin Mary”, like two players, one playing sweet, the other trying to push it down and out. Jones snaps and crushes with just the right emphasis The end solo of “I Want to Talk About You” starts strong, hits two notes that squeak and peter, and then the music spirals off with a different energy, chasing a cold breeze down alleys, peeking into windows and peering across low rooftops, looking for something found at last On the unreleased “Impressions”, Garrison’s solo starts with Jones buzzing around him, but a few leaden beats shakes off the cymbals sheen and he plunges into a range of rhythms and runs, tempo as malleable as clay in his strong hands. He takes a thunderous run at twelve minutes that works itself up to what seems a classic jazz stroll, but tumbles and rolls instead. The solo stretches expansively for many more minutes, morphing into a deeply pensive pit of the low end. Trane’s following solo is a distorted reflection of Garrison’s- it leaps and wheels, picking on a number of different mini statements, but where the bass becomes somber, the sax races and rows. Jones stays with Trane the whole time, tearing along on his own parallel path.

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