Saturday, August 23, 2014

John Coltrane - Sideman: Trane's Blue Note Sessions (Blue Note, 2014)

The period 1956-1957 was a transformative year in the life of John Coltrane.  He became clean of narcotics during this period, experienced a spiritual awakening and began his explosive rise to greatness that would mark the final decade of his life. This collection is bit of a misnomer as it places his name to the fore, when in fact he was a supporting actor in album by Paul Chambers, Johnny Griffin and and Sonny Clark. Concord took the same new wine/old bottles approach with their collection of Coltrane's sideman work for Prestige called Side Steps. This collection includes the albums Chambers' Music/High Step and Whims of Chambers Vol. 1 and 2, A Blowin' Session by Johnny Griffin and Sonny's Crib by Sonny Clark. What keeps it from being the complete Coltrane on Blue Note is the exclusion of the epochal Blue Train, the only album he recorded for Blue Note as a leader. Nonetheless, this is a very interesting collection, three discs that effectively chart Coltrane's rapid growth in his facility on the saxophone and his growing expansive conception of jazz as a whole. Coltrane had played with bassist Paul Chambers in the Miles Davis Quintet before making a less than graceful exit, only to return to the fold in the intervening year. They have a very empathetic relationship and became so close that Coltrane would later record "Mr. P.C." in his honor. Chambers himself is epic on these recordings, both with his fingers and bow he encompasses the entire hard bop medium. The session with Griffin is a fun jam with Griffin, Coltrane and Hank Mobley on tenor saxophone, blowing through five solo laced performances in Rudy Van Gelder's studio. Finally, Sonny's Crib has become a classic of the form with the pianist Clark leading a group with Coltrane, trumpeter Donald Byrd and trombonist Curtis Fuller on the front line. This is a sold collection for those who do not already own the recordings already. While not the leader, Coltrane is a central figure on these records, and taken in context with his work as a leader and sideman with Prestige records and Miles Davis, provides a glimpse of a legendary figure in his formative years. Sideman: Trane's Blue Note Sessions (3CD)

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