John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman: My One and Only Love

Marketing considerations spurred the pairing of John Coltrane with a vocalist, and the precedents here were not promising. Anyone who remembers Charlie Parker's collaborations with Earl Coleman (whose singing is similar to Hartman's), knows that progressive saxophony and baritone balladry don't always mix. But, against all odds, this pairing not only succeeded but resulted in one of Coltrane's most popular and artistically successful albums. Thousands of saxophonists have played this song, but this will always be the definitive version for most jazz fans. Hartman never sounded better, and Trane offers one of his most heartfelt performances. This is track to share with your friends who are sure that they don't like jazz.

August 07, 2009 · 0 comments

Tags:


Sam Rivers: Tranquility

This intriguing track begins with a funky tuba/bass/drum vamp that makes you go back to your iPod to make sure you put on the right album. Once having confirmed that this is "the Sam Rivers Big Band" record, the listener is just waiting for something unexpected to develop from this Funky Meters-inspired start. One minute into the track, a wide array of percussion enters followed by an improvising flute. A minute or so later, Mr. Rivers's personality finally signals its arrival with jarring long tones played by a handful of the numerous musicians in the studio. The long chords build over the next five minutes, ebbing and flowing in a dramatic and delightfully unsettling manner. As the 8-minute mark arrives, the cacophony has melted away except for the flute, percussion, and funky tuba/bass/drum vamp that leave us exactly where we started. A unique journey courtesy of the fertile mind of Sam Rivers.

September 16, 2008 · 0 comments

Tags:


Yusef Lateef: Number 7

This terrific set from Yusef Lateef's mid-'60's residency at Pep's Lounge in Philadelphia reveals a handful of fine, relatively unknown musicians performing with a multi-instrumentalist at the top of his creative game. "Number 7" is the perfect place to start if you are unfamiliar with Lateef's playing and compositional style. It begins with a fine, up-tempo bop tenor statement, followed by a slower, gospel/blues tenor statement that riles the crowd to a roaring ovation. Just when you think the tune is about to end, a bass vamp/solo begins and Lateef picks up the flute for a concluding statement. While the world music elements that have come to define Lateef's work as a leader don't reveal themselves here, his soulful tenor playing reached its career apex on Live at Pep's, a memorable live date recorded shortly after he'd completed a 2-year stint with Cannonball Adderley.

September 16, 2008 · 296 comments

Tags:


Duke Ellington & John Coltrane: In a Sentimental mood

The early 1960s was a controversial time for John Coltrane as fans and critics tried to keep up with his evolving music. In response to negative criticism, Impulse producer Bob Thiele decided to feature Coltrane on several albums in a more accessible setting. Paired with Duke Ellington, the result was an extraordinary meeting of musical minds. From the very first note, Ellington sets the pensive mood as Coltrane flexes his melodic muscle, morphing the Ellington melody into something uniquely his own. Ellington's solo fits together like a beautifully constructed puzzle, while the overall performance captures the song title perfectly.

July 02, 2008 · 1 comment

Tags:


John Coltrane: Expression

This is from Coltrane’s last session meant to be released. We just recorded it with the Saxophone Summit on our latest release, Seraphic Light. It’s a continuous melodic flow. When you’re playing that theme over and over, alone on the saxophone, implying some of the harmonies and roots, it’s like the most beautiful prayer.

I don’t think Coltrane ever explored this tune much in concert. This date was near the end of his life, and he might have brought it in for the first time at the recording session for the whole group. Now, of course, he and Alice might have been playing it as a duet, which I would love to have heard. Alice came into the band after McCoy and played with a harp-like approach, playing the full piano in her accompaniment, which seemed to relax Coltrane—he played off of more of the spectrum in the harmonies. He was playing a harp-like approach also at that point. They always talk about sheets of sound. When you slow that down, it becomes very harp-like, very open. Now, on the duets, Interstellar Space, which was done in the same month or week of 1967, he was playing through things very quick, with flurries of notes throughout the harmony, whereas he stretched them out a little bit on “Expression.” I think we would have heard another side to Coltrane had he lived and been able to develop during the ensuing years.

"Expression" was one of the songs that inspired me to find a way to play through harmonies in a free-flowing manner, without a quarter-note or metronome-type beat—an open beat, but still moving through a sequence of chords. I learned a lot about trying to approach improvising with that aspect of meter. I’m scratching the surface on that now.

June 25, 2008 · 1 comment

Tags:


John Coltrane: Dear Old Stockholm

I love this version of “Dear Old Stockholm” with Roy Haynes on drums, and I listen to it a lot. A certain freshness and different feeling happens when Coltrane plays with Roy Haynes. His ideas take different shapes rhythmically and melodically. His recordings with Roy Haynes inspired me to realize that the music within the music comes from the people that you’re playing with at the time. Through the years developing with the people that I’ve played with, especially drummers, like Ed Blackwell, Billy Higgins, Mel Lewis, Paul Motian, and Elvin Jones, I’ve realized that you can play the same tune, but when you have a different feeling in the rhythm section, you should play with a different feeling as a soloist. On this version of “Dear Old Stockholm,” I love the ending, the way they play over the form, the way they explore. They could have played that all day and night.

June 25, 2008 · 0 comments

Tags:


John Coltrane: The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost

If you break down that melody and just play it like a scale, it’s a simple, beautiful meditation on those intervals and themes, played through all the keys. That’s another record that my dad really loved, and he went down to the basement to put it on a lot, so I heard it often without actually listening to it myself. At the time, I was trying to learn how to play the saxophone, so I was more into Bird and Diz, earlier Coltrane, and Sonny with Max, but subliminally, from hearing this piece in particular, “The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost,” all of a sudden I found myself practicing a different way without even thinking about it—just simple little things on the horn that I was working on, but playing them in different keys, practicing them in a more peaceful way instead of just running through them technically on the horn. There were some things in that approach that have stayed with me, that I’m trying to develop to this day.

June 25, 2008 · 0 comments

Tags:


John Coltrane: Chim Chim Cheree

This is an amazing version of “Chim Chim Cheree” on soprano saxophone—the groove, the interplay, the flow of the quartet. To come off having such success with “My Favorite Things,” and then to play an interpretation of “Chim Chim Cheree” that was so wide open and exploratory, and just, like, SERIOUS. He wasn’t playing it just to play it. You could feel that he was into exploring what could happen off of that theme, and the way they put it together is a beautiful, joyous journey. This was in 1965, and one of his later studio recordings on soprano. His sound and approach and focus on that horn on this recording was instrumental in giving me confidence to try to play other instruments and explore the possibilities of tonal energy that comes off of the different horns you play. During that period, when I was a teenager, 16 or 17, I’d heard James Moody live and Sonny Stitt live and Rahsaan Roland Kirk live. Sonny Stitt played alto, and then put it down and played tenor. Moody picked up the flute. Rahsaan played all these horns, not only at the same time, but to play each one as his voice for the moment. The focus of sound and energy from the instrument came through. I really felt Coltrane’s focus and sound on “Chim Chim Cheree,” the energy that the instrument gave him, how he executed ideas off that inspiration.

June 25, 2008 · 0 comments

Tags:


John Coltrane: Venus

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.

June 25, 2008 · 0 comments

Tags:


John Coltrane: Vigil

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.

June 25, 2008 · 0 comments

Tags:


John Coltrane: Chasin' the Trane (master take)

All the different versions of “Chasin’ the Trane” through the years from Coltrane’s live recordings hit that same incredible level of creativity on the blues. It was a whole side of the Impulse record, Live at the Village Vanguard, and Coltrane plays from start to finish—Eric Dolphy comes in at the very end. Later, they released other takes where Dolphy plays and McCoy plays. The first time I heard this, I listened to it all day. I kept putting the needle back at the beginning of the recording. After a while, I realized it was a blues. I was a teenager, and the energy, the focus, and the swinging, beautiful exploration of Coltrane’s choruses was really some magic. Moving to New York, playing at the Village Vanguard with the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, presenting my own groups there, recording live there, feeling the spirits in that room—it goes back to that first time, checking THAT piece out.



        John Coltrane, artwork by Michael Symonds

Trane was moving on in his playing and his approach, becoming a leader, having his own band, focusing totally on what he wanted to play. That in turn created a lot of ideas. He was always dealing with how he played, as well as what he was playing, and his approach widened through the years. We all study the elements in the music, and deal with things today that we dealt with on Day One. If you don’t do that, then I don’t think you can really play with the depth of your soul. If it only becomes a technical thing to get around your horn and execute what you’ve practiced, you’re not executing your feelings. Coltrane went through periods earlier-on where he was documented as a very technical player. But every step of the way, you hear the evolution of how his feelings came out in his music, through hundreds and hundreds of songs. That was a beautiful study for me. The soulfulness of his playing, of his journey, came out in his playing at every moment.

June 25, 2008 · 0 comments

Tags:


Keith Jarrett: (If The) Misfits (Wear It)

Here is a glimpse of Keith Jarrett the avant-garde experimentalist, the combo leader who built a band around former Ornette Coleman sidemen, the artist who constantly staked out new territory with every LP. No standards here, I'm afraid. Jarrett was a different cat completely back during the Nixon administration. He plays with ferocious pianism in the opening moments of this track. Instead of the typical comping chords and jazzy right-hand phrases that most keyboardists bring to work every day, Jarrett dishes out flurries of notes, a biting sandstorm of sound. Then midway through the performance, he stops playing the piano completely, and we might as well be back in Ornette's band. "Chord changes? We don't need no stinkin' chord changes!" Later, when Jarrett starts playing soprano, matching up with Redman in the front line, who can be surprised? Fans of this band were so used to the unexpected that nothing could shake them by this point. But those who only know Jarrett from "Over the Rainbow" and "My Funny Valentine" might be shaken and stirred by this early vintage performance.

June 04, 2008 · 0 comments

Tags:


Keith Jarrett: Death and the Flower

Keith Jarrett delighted in subverting the familiar conventions of the piano-led jazz band with his early 1970s combo work. He relied on Redman and Haden, fire tested in the school of Ornette, who didn't really need chords from the keyboard to guide their musical journeys. And sometimes Jarrett would step away from the piano himself. The instrument does not even appear until some six minutes into this track. Instead we have a delicate web of percussion underpinning wood flute, and eventually Haden's bass enters throbbing like a slow heartbeat. But Jarrett's solo, when it arrives, is worth the wait. His touch and melodic inventiveness are shown off to good effect. Tone control, always one of his strengths, is especially evident here, with Motian and Haden giving him space and dynamic room to make best use of his ethereal pianissimo. Redman imposes a more macho attitude when his tenor enters the fray, and one can hear the whole group adjusting. In fact, the give-and-take throughout this entire performance is noteworthy. Jarrett doesn't so much lead this band as immerse himself into its suchness. Yet his composition serves as the fluid structure that makes it all possible. This extended work (some 22 minutes) is essential listening for anyone who wants to come to grips with the artistry of pre-Standards Jarrett.

June 04, 2008 · 0 comments

Tags:


McCoy Tyner: Satin Doll

If you only know McCoy Tyner from his Coltrane and post-Coltrane recordings, this early trio track may surprise you. Nights of Ballads and Blues is old-school Tyner. You will hear none of his familiar modal voicings. You will find none of his patented fourths-and-fifths-in-a-sprint licks. But the sheer beauty of his crisp touch is on display throughout, and the groove is irresistible on his casual reworking of the Ellington standard. This is not the place to start, if you are out to hear this pianist for the first time -- newbies should head immediately to the classic Coltrane quartet albums or Tyner's 1970s Milestone releases. But trio fans and Tyner-o-holics will want to check out this "Satin Doll."

May 23, 2008 · 0 comments

Tags:


John Coltrane: After the Rain

The opening tenor notes of this short work go a long way to evoking the title. The majesty of this melody is so strong that it grabs all one’s attention and focus right from the start. This is not the savage, primal John Coltrane but the reflective searcher making great use of space to create drama and mood. The accompaniment is understated with a lot of pedal tones from the piano and bass and Haynes deftly utilizing only his cymbals. This recording comes from the brief period when regular drummer Elvin Jones was on hiatus.

May 19, 2008 · 0 comments

Tags:


Previous Page | Next Page