Sunday, March 01, 2009

John Coltrane - Impressions (Impulse, 1963)

This album, originally issued in 1963, has been somewhat superseded by the Complete Village Vanguard 1961 Recordings boxed set, but it still holds up extremely well as a stand alone LP. Consisting of two extraordinary live performances recorded at the Village Vanguard in New York City on November 3, 1961 with the so-called classic quartet consisting of Coltrane on tenor and soprano saxophone, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. For these recordings, the band is further augmented by Eric Dolphy on alto saxophone and bass clarinet, and Reggie Workman on bass. "India" has a fascinating exotic melody and feel and the improvisation with two bases and bass clarinet bubbling along the bottom and Coltrane's soprano swirling along the top, propelled by Jones ever-shifting poly-rhythms is simple hypnotic. "Impressions" is one of the most legendary Coltrane performances, something that saxophonists would view as a touchstone from here on. Over the course of fifteen minutes, the band plays one of the most epic slash and burn modal jazz performances ever recorded. There are also two studio performances, including one of his most famous ballads, "After the Rain" which aurally manages to capture the moment of a ray of sunshine breaking thought the clouds after a cleansing rain. The music found here, especially the live tracks is a close to essential as modern jazz gets, with one of its most famous bands captured at the height of their awesome powers.
Impressions -

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