Sunday, August 25, 2013

John Coltrane - Afro Blue Impressions (Pablo, 1977; Concord, 2013)

Recorded in Stockholm and Berlin during a 1963 tour, John Coltrane’s classic quartet featured himself 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, and this album captures two well played concerts. This new re-mastering clears up the slightly muddy sound of the previous issue, and adds extra tracks from the Stockholm performance 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." The explosive improvisation "Chasin' the Trane" follows, a much briefer version then the lauded blowout of torrid angst from the 1961 Village Vanguard Recording, but still very powerful. There is an epic version of "My Favorite Things" which features some great piano playing from McCoy Tyner. Bubbling soprano saxophone launches propulsively into improvisation after developing the enduring melody of the song, developing into a long but compelling performance. Another staple of the band's playbook, "Afro Blue," features Coltrane staying 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. This song is repeated twice on the album, and it is really interesting to see how Coltrane develops the unaccompanied ending each time. "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 also includes 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

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