John Coltrane: Expression




John Coltrane (tenor sax)


Expression (Impulse A-9120)

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John Coltrane (tenor sax), Alice Coltrane (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass), Rashied Ali (drums).

Composed by John Coltrane


Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, N.J., March, 1967


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

This is from Coltraneís last session meant to be released. We just recorded it with the Saxophone Summit on our latest release, Seraphic Light. Itís a continuous melodic flow. When youíre playing that theme over and over, alone on the saxophone, implying some of the harmonies and roots, itís like the most beautiful prayer.

I donít think Coltrane ever explored this tune much in concert. This date was near the end of his life, and he might have brought it in for the first time at the recording session for the whole group. Now, of course, he and Alice might have been playing it as a duet, which I would love to have heard. Alice came into the band after McCoy and played with a harp-like approach, playing the full piano in her accompaniment, which seemed to relax Coltraneóhe played off of more of the spectrum in the harmonies. He was playing a harp-like approach also at that point. They always talk about sheets of sound. When you slow that down, it becomes very harp-like, very open. Now, on the duets, Interstellar Space, which was done in the same month or week of 1967, he was playing through things very quick, with flurries of notes throughout the harmony, whereas he stretched them out a little bit on ďExpression.Ē I think we would have heard another side to Coltrane had he lived and been able to develop during the ensuing years.

"Expression" was one of the songs that inspired me to find a way to play through harmonies in a free-flowing manner, without a quarter-note or metronome-type beatóan open beat, but still moving through a sequence of chords. I learned a lot about trying to approach improvising with that aspect of meter. Iím scratching the surface on that now.

Reviewer: Joe Lovano

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  • 1 Lieb // Jun 25, 2008 at 09:00 AM
    Though, Trane does not play on the changes on the original recording, it would've been nice to have heard him do that. As with other music from the late period, beautiful, lyrical melodies are usually played without direct harmonic implications during both the head and the improvising, but one could hear that lovely harmonies were possible and probable given further renditions, which unfortunately we never heard. That is why exploring the late period Trane as we did on "Seraphic Light" and "Gathering of Spirits" is important to do.