John Coltrane - Quartet Plays (Impulse, 1965)
The Classic Coltrane Quartet was starting to implode at the end of 1965. With A Love Supreme under his belt, Coltrane began to move further into the avant-garde, following the lead of pioneers in that area like Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor, whom he had been listening to intently. McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones began to have second thoughts as they started to feel out of touch with the music and the direction it was going.
This record was one of the last sessions the group would do together and in a sense it's a traditional Coltrane session in that it contains a Disney tune "Chim Chim Cheree" and a well-worn standard "Nature Boy" in addition to the originals "Song of Praise" and the exotic "Brazilia."
Even with pop songs on the menu, the music is radically changed, Jones shifts the rhythms and Tyner looks for openings to chord and solo. Coltrane has a wonderful way with melody, something he never lost even in his most "out" improvisations, and his lilting approach to "Nature Boy" is a joy to hear.
This record is often overlooked in the Coltrane discography and that's a shame. Not only is the music first rate, but it's a fascinating glimpse of a great musician at a crossroads in his development leaving the comfort of form for the uncertainty of freedom.
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