Monday, October 19, 2009

John Coltrane - Side Steps (Concord, 2009)

Disc Four of this collection of tenor saxophonist John Coltrane's recordings as a sideman for the Prestige label finds him continuing to serve under the leadership of pianist Red Garland, taking selections from several Garland LP's of the period (1957.) Joining Garland and Coltrane are Donald Byrd on trumpet, George Joyner (Jamil Nasser) on bass and Art Taylor on drums. "All Mornin' Long" opens the disc and is an apt description, with this twenty minute mid-tempo marathon lasting the length of an entire LP side. The bebop anthems "Billie's Bounce" and "Two Bass Hit" pick up the pace considerably, with excellent solos from Coltrane and Byrd taken at lightning speed. Duke Ellington's "Solitude" is a well paced ballad with a thoughtful yearning sound. "Soft Winds" is interesting because after it establishes a comfortable medium tempo, Coltrane enters with a strong solo swirling torrent of notes followed by a rolling piano interlude. The final selection, "Lazy Mae," also filled an entire side of an original vinyl LP, clocking in at over sixteen minutes. Garland opens solo before adding bass and drums and developing a gentle bluesy swing trio: loping bass, steady pulse drums and rippling piano. At the 7:45 mark, Coltrane enters digging in with a deep blues feel, but clearly holding back a little so not to overwhelm the mood. The trio comes back and takes the performance out with brief solo spots for Bryd and Joyner. It's to the band's credit that the long bluesy jams that open and close this disc never get boring or stale, and they are able to maintain interest throughout. This disc is an nice example of the music being recorded for Prestige during this period. Well played studio jams of bop, ballads and blues. Nothing to challenging, but certainly enjoyable music.
Side Steps -

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