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Discernment. Online













All tracks feature Coltrane's "sheets of sound" technique, whereby he just poured out a torrent of notes without pause whenever he played



Saxophonist at his most intense

The Very Best of John Coltrane gives you the peak period of Coltrane's brief career


The Very Best of John Coltrane
Universal Music
Rs 125

Coltrane: pouring music Here for once is an album that makes good its boast of being the "best". Almost all of the tenor and soprano saxophonist John Coltrane's recording career as a leader was in the first half of the '60s, since he died in 1967 of liver cancer and became a regular leader very late in the '50s. Much of that career was for the Impulse label, from whom Universal has inherited the recordings to which this fecund collection, marking his 75th birth anniversary last September, is indebted.

The first track, A Love Supreme, Part I: Acknowledgment, was recorded in 1964, at a time when Coltrane's playing was becoming emotionally very intense and on the verge of his controversial experiments with "free" (often discordant) jazz. Discordance is happily absent here, but his playing on tenor saxophone is an unrestrained outpouring of what was becoming a very tortured soul searching for a spiritual haven and expressing his search in his music.

Other tracks may be less intense, but like this one all feature Coltrane's "sheets of sound" technique, whereby he just poured out a torrent of notes without pause whenever he played. The second number, In a Sentimental Mood, comes from a jam session with Duke Ellington. Ellington's piano keeps playing a riff that sets the stage for Coltrane's sax to take the theme, after which Ellington takes a beautiful solo on piano before Coltrane returns for the theme. Elvin Jones's drumming and Aaron Bell's bass are just right for this lovely ballad.

Most of the other tracks feature Coltrane's regular sidemen, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jones on drums and Jimmy Garrison on bass. This was the period in which Coltrane brought the soprano saxophone back into vogue as a haunting instrument in the upper register. His two most famous vehicles for it appear here, Afro Blue in a 10-minute version and My Favourite Things in a 17-minute version. Both have long solos by Tyner and Coltrane, marked by unflagging virtuosity. Their haunting quality, which eradicates the Latin jazz provenance of the former and the pop origin of the latter, is matched or even exceeded by Naima, written for his first wife, and Alabama.

A couple of brisk numbers, Impressions and Bessie's Blues, vary the mood of the rest of the album. The ballad Lush Life, composed by Ellington's friend and partner Billy Strayhorn and a match for In a Sentimental Mood, here features a rare (for Coltrane) and somewhat ill-fitting vocal by Johnny Hartman.

Most of the soloing on the album comes from Coltrane and Tyner, but the drumming and bass work is of the highest quality and reflects the perfect matching of the quartet at this peak period of Coltrane's brief career.


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Published on 25 March 2002

Fabmart Music

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