Saturday, March 17, 2012

John Coltrane - Afro Blue Impressions (Pablo 1977, 1994, Japanese remaster 2004)

Originally recorded during the "classic quartet's" 1963 tour of Europe, the release remained unissued until 1977, and then was subsequently re-issued on domestic compact disc in 1994, before being remastered in Japan ten years later. With John Coltrane on tenor and soprano saxophone, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums, this was one of the most famous bands in jazz history. This Japanese re-mastering clears up the slightly muddy sound of the previous issue, leaving a clear record of a great band in full flight. The album starts with a couple of ballads, "Lonnie's Lament" which would go on to anchor the Crescent LP and Coltrane's well known ballad "Naima." "Lonnie's Lament" must have been a relatively new addition to the band's repertoire at this point, as they take a careful probing approach, then shifting into a short, concise and majestic version of "Naima." "Chasin' the Trane" follows, a much briefer version then the lauded blowout of torrid angst from the 1961 Village Vanguard Recording. Disc one ends with an epic version of "My Favorite Things" which features some great piano playing from McCoy Tyner. Bubbling soprano saxophone launches merrily into improvisation after developing the enduring melody of the song, developing into a long but compelling improvisation. Disc two begins with another staple of the band's playbook, "Afro Blue." Coltrane stays on soprano saxophone, developing an exciting nasal swirling sound. "Cousin Mary" begins with a well played feature for piano, bass and drums. Coltrane makes a late entrance, heightening the drama of his explosive solo, developing into a powerful highlight, egged on by Jones' ever-potent drumming. The wistful ballad "I Want to Talk About You" is taken on tenor saxophone and receives a wonderful unaccompanied tag ending. "Spiritual" opens strong and sombre with Coltrane on deeply hued tenor saxophone. After making way for the trio, he returns on soprano saxophone for a probing and searching solo. The album is closed with the wonderfully exciting "Impressions," moving the music into an uptempo overdrive with piano, bass and drums setting the table before Coltrane enters grandly with an authoritative solo. This was an excellent snapshot of a great band live on tour. Developing new material, and re-evaluating older themes, the music is continually exciting and moving. Afro Blue Impressions - amazon.com

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