Friday, July 13, 2007

John Coltrane - My Favorite Things: Live at Newport (Verve/Impulse, 2007)

This reissue captures live recordings of legendary tenor and soprano saxophonist John Coltrane in concert at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1963 and 1965. He is accompanied by McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and on the 1963 tracks, Roy Haynes on drums. On the 1965 selections, Coltrane's regular drummer Elvin Jones is present completing what is known as John Coltrane's "Classic Quartet." The first three tracks complete with introductions from Willis Conover imploring the crowd to "simmer down" are from the 1963 set, leading off with a version of "I Want to Talk About You" similar to the Live at Birdland performance, complete with a beautiful unaccompanied solo from Coltrane at the end. "My Favorite Things" was a staple of nearly every performance from this band, and it gets an extended seventeen minute plus workout here with ample solo space for McCoy Tyner. A long burning version of the Coltrane original "Impressions" follows with the leader sending wave upon wave of improvised saxophone to a delirious audience. It's fascinating to listen to Haynes here - he has a lighter and more fluid touch that is ideally suited to bebop, but he makes the transition well to the modal music and provides Coltrane with a much different foil then the thundering Jones. And thunder Elvin Jones does on the two final tracks on this disc, from the 1965 festival. After being introduced as a "newcomer" and a "Detroit boy" by a pretty clueless Father Norman O'Connor, the quartet bursts into a storming version of "One Down, One Up" with the music straining at the leash of any kind of formal structure. Jones and Coltrane are just on another level, with Tyner on the sidelines for the most part, and Garrison nearly lost in the mix. Finally, another version of "My Favorite Things" where McCoy Tyner is able to get a foothold in the melodic material as Coltrane's swirling soprano tries to head for the stars. The crowd practically demands more, but to no avail. There has been considerable discussion as to the redundancy of this disc, as the music was previously released on Newport '63 and New Thing at Newport. But speaking solely about the musical quality, which is excellent, this disc deserves careful consideration by Coltrane fans who do not already own the music in a previous form.

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