John Coltrane: Impressions




John Coltrane (tenor sax)


The 1961 Helsinki Concert (Gambit 69275)

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John Coltrane (tenor sax), Eric Dolphy (bass clarinet), McCoy Tyner (piano), Reggie Workman (bass), Elvin Jones (drums).

Composed by John Coltrane


Recorded: Helsinki, November. 22, 1961


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

While I was on tour with McCoy Tyner in April 2008, I found this in a record shop in Basel, Switzerland. I’d never seen it before. This version of “Impressions” starts the concert. It’s at a slower tempo, almost like the tempo at which they played “So What” with Miles. It’s an amazing, short version of this tune with no solo by McCoy. I love the way they play the theme together and the way Eric answers and plays in the spaces of the melody. Coltrane plays around nine beautiful choruses, then Eric comes in and plays nine or ten choruses himself—some of the most beautiful Eric Dolphy with Coltrane on record. After Dolphy, Coltrane comes back in, and plays another two or three choruses before they take the theme out. You can feel that Coltrane was inspired just by having Dolphy on the scene. He hands it over to him in a way where he’s saying, “Okay, man, what have you got to say?” Then when Dolphy ends his chorus, Coltrane has to come in and play again because it’s at this beautiful place in the whole structure of the piece.

Coltrane came up in an era where you played in bands with other saxophone players a lot, and he recorded with a lot of different saxophone players. Some of it was documented—there was a great record with Johnny Griffin and Hank Mobley; he recorded with Al Cohn and Zoot Sims and Hank Mobley as a quartet; did a record on alto with Paul Quinichette, Pepper Adams, and Gene Ammons; and of course the sextet with Miles and Cannonball and the quintet with Cannonball—but I’m sure through the years he was in tons of bands, and many jam sessions and situations where you shape the music together spontaneously right at the moment with other saxophone players. Later, his collaborations with Pharaoh Sanders, Archie Shepp, and others really stand out as some really beautiful collaborative group explorations. Throughout his career, I think he enjoyed, as I do, feeding off other people, especially if they have a strong personality and ideas and have their own statement. So it was great to hear him with Dolphy and have Eric’s voice, not only on alto, but bass clarinet and flute.

Reviewer: Joe Lovano

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