John Coltrane: Blue Train


Blue Train


John Coltrane (tenor sax)


Blue Train (Blue Note 95326)

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John Coltrane (tenor sax), Lee Morgan (trumpet), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Kenny Drew (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums).

Composed by John Coltrane


Recorded: Hackensack, N.J., September 15, 1957


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

John Coltrane (and I think it was he, rather than his various producers) seemed to know which performances would mark the turning points of his career. Just think of three cornerstones: “Blue Train," “Giant Steps,” “My Favorite Things,” all title tracks of albums, and all the opening track on side 1 of those albums. Even in lesser cases like “Impressions” and “Olé," the same rule applied. And there is little question that the first of these examples, “Blue Train” represents the peak of Coltrane’s “sheets of sound” approach. Coltrane seems anxious to show off this new approach and when he launches into his solo, the intensity immediately goes up several degrees. It was Ira Gitler that coined the “sheets” phrase and while it is an effective description, it misses the element of rhythmic freedom that Coltrane found during this period. He creates rhythmic ideas that seem completely divorced from the ground beat, yet somehow they fit into their surroundings. Of course, Coltrane’s not the only star of “Blue Train”: the album has some of the finest Lee Morgan and Curtis Fuller solos to that time and the rhythm section is stunning throughout. I doubt that Coltrane had much interest in recreating the sound of an actual train on this recording, but there is a wonderful moment at the beginning of Fuller’s second chorus when Paul Chambers starts a boogie bass line and Kenny Drew picks it up for a couple of bars. It’s disarming when you hear it, and an interesting glance back into jazz history by musicians who seemed to always look forward.

Reviewer: Thomas Cunniffe

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