Thursday, November 07, 2013

John Coltrane - The Impulse! Albums vol. 1 (Verve, 2007)

After successful stints as a bandleader with the Prestige and Atlantic record labels, John Coltrane's tenure with the Impulse! label began with a very impressive large ensemble ensemble recording entitled Africa/Brass. He added to his quartet a range of horns to play arrangements by Eric Dolphy and McCoy Tyner. The resulting recording was a dark and powerful statement of the fascinating track "Africa" which was offset by the melodic sensibility of "Greensleves." Live at the Village Vanguard was quite controversial at the time with allegations of "anti-jazz" were levied against both John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy. In retrospect, these feelings were clearly misplaced, and Coltrane was simply moving forward at a breathless pace. The exotic "India" was followed by the standard "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise" but then the entire second half of the original LP was taken up by "Chasin' The Trane" which was one of the most thrilling Coltrane performances ever recorded. An incredibility powerful statement, it was composed entirely in the moment, and was a map for the music to come. This map took a detour when stung by the criticism, Impulse! placed Coltrane in some more accessible settings on the next few albums. The Ballads LP reels in the length of the individual songs to short statements that left little room for improvisation, but focused on the melodic and lyrical side of Coltrane's work. The decision to pair John Coltrane with Duke Ellington was an inspired one, based of the great mutual respect the musicians has for each other.While Coltrane the perfectionist asked for multiple takes of each performance, Duke insisted for a much looser atmosphere, culminating with the wonderful track "Take the Coltrane." The final LP in this collection is the eponymous Coltrane album, which brings the focus back to the "classic quartet" with McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. Although a transitional album, you really get the feeling that this album showed the band really coming into their own especially on tracks like "Tunji" and "Soul Eyes." It should be noted that this collection is made up of CD reproductions of the original albums, shorn of any alternate takes or additional music. The music and the accompanying notes reflect the way the music was presented in 1961-62. Impulse Albums Vol. 1 - amazon.com

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