John Coltrane: Vigil




John Coltrane (tenor sax)


Kulu Sé Mama (Impulse A 9106)

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John Coltrane (tenor sax), Elvin Jones (drums).

Composed by John Coltrane


Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, N.J., June 16, 1965


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

My dad had Kulu Se Mama, which this track is from, so I didn’t have to buy it. He listened to this all the time. I was very lucky that my dad had a hip record collection, and had these records from the different periods of Coltrane. He met Coltrane in the early ‘50s and played a jam session with him in Cleveland. Coltrane was playing alto; he was in town with a blues band led by a guy named Gay Crosse, who was a Cleveland cat. During that time, you might stay somewhere for a month or two and play every night. Anyway, they were one year apart—my dad was born in 1925, and Coltrane in 1926. So they came up in the same generation, the same music. My dad played at this session with Coltrane, and he never forgot that, man. So through the years, he had all his records. But Kulu Se Mama was one that my dad loved to listen to.

This piece, “Vigil,” is a duet with Elvin Jones. It was incredibly well recorded. My dad had a nice stereo with speakers all over the basement, so wherever you were down in our basement it was great sound! So when you listened to this in our basement, at forte, it was like they were in the room with you. The sound of the drums and the way they played together was so beautiful and organic. It might have been one of the first times I really heard a saxophone-and-drums duet on a recording.

In 1965, when this recording was made, he seemed to fill the room with his tone in a different way. In the early ‘60s, he was playing through his horn and flying around his horn—his sound attacked you, it came at you. As he developed more towards the end of his life, his tone was more majestic, and had a much more spiritual and open feeling to it—to me. Even though he was still playing some ferocious, incredible things around his instrument, his sound was even more beautiful and deep than it had been. That’s what captured me on this duet as well.

Reviewer: Joe Lovano

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