Thursday, October 22, 2009

John Coltrane - Side Steps, Disc Five (Concord, 2009)

Disc Five of this collection of tenor saxophonist John Coltrane's recordings as a sideman for the Prestige label is the final one in this package, beginning with a very interesting album under the leadership of the tuba player Ray Draper. During the days of early jazz, tuba was a common instrument until it was displaced by the upright bass in the 1930's. Draper was far from a dusty relic, he was a modernist and the sound that is achieved by combining tenor saxophone and tuba is unique and beguiling. The liner notes compare it to the sound of a tenor improvising over a droning organ, and they are not far off the mark with that assessment. “Clifford’s Kappa,” is a fast paced standout from that session, with Coltrane sounding confident and Draper bumping along nicely. SonnyRollins’s “Paul’s Pal,” and the Latin influenced “Under Paris Skies” find Coltrane taking risks and confidently driving his solos. The set wraps up with an albums nominally led by tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons, The Big Sound and His All-Stars. These loose studio jams are enjoyable, with Jerome Richardson on flute, Paul Quinichette on tenor saxophone, Pepper Adams on baritone saxophone, Mal Waldron on piano, George Joyner (Jamil Nasser) on bass and Art Taylor on drums. Coltrane plays alto on The Big Sound, which is a bit of a curio, but his overall musical doesn't change noticeably. These are groove based performances, with a soulful mid-tempo feel for the most part and with a touch of ballads and bop. Newly clean and sober and tempered by his apprenticeship withThelonious Monk, Coltrane was now primed to return to the Miles Davis Quintet for his great comeback, to begin his ascendancy toward becoming one of the most revered musicians in American History. Overall this was a very interesting set which shed some light on an often neglected corner of Coltrane's musical development. The liner booklet is well done with essays and a discography, it can be downloaded in pdf format here. When he entered into this brief period he was scuffling both musically and personally, but due to hard work and perseverance, less than three years leader as a bold, confident man and musician poised to make his mark.
Side Steps - amazon.com

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