John Coltrane - Coltrane

Impulse (Reissue) IMPD-215

Playing Time 47:23

John Coltrane - Tenor and Soprano Sax
McCoy Tyner - Piano
Jimmy Garrison - Bass
Elvin Jones- Drums

John Coltrane - Coltrane Cover As a student of jazz and a lover of innovative music, I marveled at the invention and inspiration of this music. Coltrane plays with tremendous power and energy, pushing the envelope of harmony and tension well past the boundaries of Bebop and swing. After Dizzy and Bird convinced much of the jazz world that there was no other musical progression, John Coltrane, along with friend, Miles Davis, brought a spectacular and highly-musical new light to the rapidly changing Bebop idiom.

Coltrane's use of irregular rhythms and harmonies came from a passion for modernism, inspired by Dennis Sandole (at Pittsburg's Granoff School of Music), Monk and Miles. The inspiration for this new kind of music came out of Trane's harmonic philosophies coupled with his never-ending search for moral and religious truth.

Coltrane began playing with Elvin Jones and McCoy Tyner in the early sixties. The John Coltrane Quartet survived many changes throughout this period, none the least was in-again out-again Elvin Jones, who was in the midst of dealing with a drug problem. Bass players were also on the merry-go-round. The original bass player, Steve Davis, was replaced by Reggie Workman, who was bumped by Jimmy Garrison. There is no doubt that these changes, while disruptive, expanded the scope of harmony and rhythm. It gave rise to a new forum which later would become an essential part of groups such as Blood, Sweat, and Tears and Weather Report. Each member of the John Coltrane Quartet brought their own voice to Trane's music, and eventually brought their collective new sound to its greatest peak. It is this superb collection of musicians that appears so perfectly on Coltrane.

Each of the seven tracks is a perfect synthesis of the Quartet's art, extended in musically significant ways by the not-to-be-denied great one. Inch Worm features Tyner on piano. It is no surprise that Coltrane adopted this man as his regular piano player. When you hear Tyner solo for the first time, it is important to listen to the entire picture he is painting, rather than just the melody. His use of a disjunct melody, peppered with rhythmic punches, makes the solo cohesive. Further, he is able to raise the tension level in the music by using extended harmonies in the right hand. Bassist Jimmy Garrison solos on Miles' Mode. Garrison's solo echoes the disjunct melodic style of Tyner, but uses space to create energy within the solo. And where drummer Elvin Jones obviously does not have the same melodic ability as his colleagues, he adds his brilliant signature to the overall sound in many effective ways.

The recording was digitally remastered by Erick Labson at MCA Music Media Studios. It is a 20-bit effort utilizing Sony's Super-Bit-Mapping technology, and boasts two bonus tracks not found on the original - Big Nick and Up 'Gainst the Wall. The sound is superlative. One small caveat, however. At times the bass is a little distant, so a gentle boost in this domain may be necessary.

On viewing Impulse's catalogue, I found this recording is but one from a virtual treasure chest of jazz delights. Each one is packaged beautifully in a folder-like cover, which offers ample space for photographs and recording information, as well as offering good protection for the compact disc. Coltrane is a prime example of these Impulse delights, and is enthusiastically recommended for any fan of great modern jazz.

Copyright©Steven Dubinsky, 1998