John Coltrane: Route 4
John Coltrane (tenor sax)
Composed & arranged by Teddy Charles.
Recorded: Hackensack, NJ, April 20, 1957
Rating: 91/100 (learn more)
Among the many innovative technological failures of the mid- and late 1950s, the 16-rpm phonograph record stands as the industry's answer to the Edsel. One of Prestige's contributions to this auditory dustbin was an LP on steroids titled Baritones and French Horns under the supervision of vibist, composer, arranger, A&R man Teddy Charles.
The baritone side of this album was reissued twice on LP and twice more on CD under Coltrane's name, though Pepper Adams was the actual leader on these sessions. There is a track titled "Mary's Blues" that many people later assumed was dedicated to the legendary "Cousin Mary," but as Pepper explained it to me, the name came from the fact that the recording date took place on Good Friday. (Oh, that Mary!) So much for fascinating trivia.
The music is stimulating and a lot less slapdash than that on most Prestige dates of the period. Charles's arrangements are detailed and fresh sounding, avoiding the potential for muddiness that such low-end instrumentation can produce in the wrong hands.
"Route 4" is an up-tempo minor-key original in AAB form with Cecil Payne's dark, plaintive sound stating the theme in the A sections, and a startling color change occurring when Coltrane plays lead on the B sections. Mal Waldron's ruminative solo, exploring the dark side of Bud Powell, kicks things off, after which Payne follows with an anxious, probing spot that is a revelation for its contrast with the cheerful buoyancy that normally characterized his style. All three saxophonists present a fascinating contrast in styles, with each possessing a tone that perfectly complements the rhythmic, harmonic and melodic content of his playing. Coltrane and Adams sound great, and each man's work is representative of his style at the time. But Cecil Payne's playing here reveals a deep, dark side that comes as a pleasant shock.
Reviewer: Kenny Berger