John Coltrane: Ascension - Edition II


Ascension – Edition II


John Coltrane (tenor sax)


Ascension (Impulse 314 543 413-2)

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John Coltrane (tenor sax), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Marion Brown (alto sax), John Tchicai (alto sax), Pharoah Sanders (tenor sax), Archie Shepp (tenor sax), McCoy Tyner (piano), Art Davis (bass), Jimmy Garrison (bass), Elvin Jones (drums), Dewey Johnson (trumpet).

Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, N.J., June 28, 1965


Rating: 89/100 (learn more)

It’s difficult (and maybe pointless) to choose between the two 40-minute versions of “Ascension” that are included on the CD release, so let’s go with the Edition II, which for some reason appears first. In any case, we recommend you listen to only one version per sitting, because this is difficult, trying music. Some would call it chaotic. “Ascension” can go into the same category as Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz and Peter Brotzmann’s Machine Gun. Yes, there is structure beneath all this, but it is impossible to ascertain exactly how much direction Coltrane gave the cast of musicians he assembled here. The seven saxophonists and trumpeters seem to blare away without much regard for what they’re hearing, if they’re even listening. So why the 89 rating? Because these moments of zaniness are mere bridges that link the high points of this performance – namely, the intensely focused improvisation that occurs when most of the ensemble sits back to let the individuals solo with the rhythm section.

Reviewer: Steve Greenlee

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