John Coltrane – Coltrane’s Sound (1960)

Among the heavyweight albums recorded during John Coltrane’s solo career, there are several gems that have become somewhat obscured over the decades beneath the vast shadow of the legendary releases. So revered are rightful classics such as Blue Train (1957), Giant Steps (1960) and of course the canonised A Love Supreme (1965) that comparatively minor works remain overlooked despite the great music hidden in their grooves. Coltrane’s Sound was recorded during the same October 1960 sessions that yielded My Favourite Things and Coltrane Plays The Blues for Atlantic Records (and released without his input or approval in 1964 after he had signed to Impulse). These are the first sessions that featured McCoy Tyner on piano and the explosive drummer Elvin Jones who would both commit to his quartet until 1965 and 1966 respectively. During that time they (with bassist Jimmy Garrison who joined in 1962) would formulate an intense group cohesion that has since merited for the quartet a rarified status, their crowning achievement being the pioneering A Love Supreme. What is clear, based on these earliest recordings, is that as a combo they hit the ground running.

The stream of music that pours from Coltrane’s saxophone during ‘The Night Has A Thousand Eyes’ and the blistering ‘Liberia’ is a form of controlled mayhem that is achievable only by musicians who own their abilities, and themselves, totally. Coltrane’s famed obsession with practising ten hours-plus every day is why the notes he plays go way beyond being mere sound tones. His expressive reach is without boundaries, especially on a ballad like ‘Central Park West’ which extends his art to the level of the sublime. He has absorbed the unknowable absolute truth and tends to his creation with the humility of a zen master. This informs his performance on ‘Equinox’, an ode to the infinite variations of the evolving sky during twilight, mirroring the nature of the man himself. A buoyant version of ’Body and Soul’ has a solo by Tyner full of freshness and joy, and the band steer Coltrane’s ’Satellite’ out of orbit as it careens from familiar earthly realms through the stratosphere, nudging the expanse of forever and back again. The trajectory of Coltrane’s career from this point, however, was directed ever-outward. When he did eventually reach forever he just kept going.

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“If you play and make a statement, a musical statement, and it’s a valid statement, that’s a truth right there in itself.”

 

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