John Coltrane: Venus




John Coltrane (tenor sax)


Interstellar Space (Impulse ASD 9277)

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John Coltrane (tenor sax), Rashied Ali (drums).

Composed by John Coltrane


Recorded: Englewood, N.J., February 22, 1967


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

This is a duet with Rashied Ali on drums, playing brushes. It’s a ballad-like, lyrical, rubato piece, and the way they improvise together is so captivating and beautiful, you want to keep listening to it over and over again. Interstellar Space was a recording of four duets, four planets— "Mars," "Jupiter," "Saturn," and "Venus." I brought this recording home and played it for my Dad, and he really dug it. After I moved to New York in the mid ‘70s, one of the first places I went was Rashied Ali’s club, Ali’s Alley. I’d been playing a little with [pianist] Albert Dailey, and he told me he was playing a gig there with ‘Shied and that I should come, which I did. I sat in with him that night. It was one of the thrills of my life at that point, calling home and telling my dad I sat in and played with Rashied Ali!

                John Coltrane, photo by Herb Snitzer

On “Venus,” compared to a piece like “Vigil” from a year and a half earlier, which had a certain energy and swing and drive that Elvin and Coltrane hooked up on, Coltrane was dealing with a new approach to rhythm and flow—playing counterpoint within the rhythm. It was still swinging and moving in a certain forward motion, but it wasn’t a quarter-note swing beat. It was a very open beat that gives you a lot of room for expression. In a way, Rashied Ali was playing more like a soloist along with the soloist, but they were finding all kinds of beautiful unisons within the counterpoint that they were creating with each other. From that moment, I’ve been trying to develop that way of playing in my expression. Those directions put me in a path to play with Paul Motian through the years. At that same period in the ‘60s, Paul was also exploring a very free approach in his accompaniment on drums, flowing with the soloist and not just playing the beat that everyone expects you to play. Feeling the beat and then improvising with it.

Reviewer: Joe Lovano

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