Saturday, October 17, 2009

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

Disc three of this collection of John Coltrane’s recordings for Prestige as a sideman find him in familiar territory, recording with the pianist Red Garland, whom Coltrane would perform with on several occasions during his tenures with the Miles Davis Quintet. This was a very important period of time for Coltrane, he had recently given up narcotics after being dismissed from the Davis band and was in an intense period of development, playing and recording with the pianist and composer Thelonious Monk. All of disc three was recorded on November 15, 1957 with John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Donald Byrd on trumpet, Red Garland on piano, George Joyner (Jamil Nasser) on bass and Art Taylor drums. The group was in full Prestige mode, recording standards and blowing pieces that didn’t require much preparation. The jazz standards from the bebop era are quite effective with Coltrane soloing with great facility on the likes of “Birk’s Works” and “Woody ‘n’ You.” When the tempos flag, so do the spirits of the group, as the ballad “I Got It Bad” is surprisingly listless and tired. The lengthy jam “Soul Junction” flags a bit as well, as they stretch a simple riff for over fifteen minutes. But when the group keeps things tight, they are impressive, as the tracks “Undecided” and “Hallelujah” show. So, under Garland’s direction, the results are a bit of a mixed bag. But you can hear Coltrane really bursting at the seams of this material and you get the sense that he was beginning to come into his own and was eager to look beyond simple blowing sessions as a way to express himself.
Side Steps -

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