John Coltrane: Blue Train (featuring Lee Morgan)


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)

Lee Morgan’s career is chock-full of essential, “Dozens”-worthy improvisations; it took weeks of eating, breathing, and sleeping Lee Morgan before I could narrow it down to the final twelve. What’s truly astonishing, however, is the number of jaw-dropping solos he waxed before his twentieth birthday! As he aged, Morgan broadened stylistically, incorporating insightful and at times brooding lyricism, chic funkiness, and cathartic cries. But at age nineteen, Morgan’s playing was more elemental—a raw and fiery approach built on power, velocity, and excitement. Young Morgan was also fueled by his cockiness, which certainly came in handy on all-star sessions like John Coltrane’s Blue Train.

In 1957 the great tenorman was saying all one could possibly say while following chord changes. His classic solo on “Blue Train” is biting, intense, and concentrated but never stuffy. Morgan’s first two choruses build rather patiently, but one gets the feeling he has an itch that needs scratching. Philly Joe’s double-time-introducing hi-hat is his remedy and the eager trumpeter wastes no time, blasting into a 16th note extravaganza squarely on beat one of his third chorus. His dizzying lines are impeccably executed and popping with accents. Energetic nearly to a fault, Morgan tears through the double-time then seamlessly releases into his fifth and final chorus with one of the baddest licks of all-time (4:48), finishing off a prodigious solo with a final chorus steeped in the blues.

Reviewer: Matt Leskovic

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