Saturday, September 28, 2019

John Coltrane - Blue World (Impulse, 2019)

More forgotten than lost, John Coltrane's music for Gilles Groulx's film Le chat dans le sac, was recorded with his classic quartet of McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass on Elvin Jones on drums. The band didn't play along with the film, Groulx asked for certain songs, and Coltrane only played original tracks which he had written. "Naima (Take 1)" opens with that song's gentle and beautiful melody with yearning saxophone and piano, taut bass and gentle cymbals. The music wouldn't sound out of place on Coltrane's Ballads album from a few years before, especially when he steps aside and for the rhythm section to shine in a nicely dialed in and quiet manner. The leader returns to close the performance by repeating the theme with some subtle embellishments. An appealing rhythm is set up from the opening of "Village Blues (Take 2)" setting a nice foundation for Coltrane to join in and gradually build short phrases of dark toned saxophone. He keeps the music interesting by dynamically shifting his solo, from powerful bursts of notes to straight ahead melodic playing, careful not to overdo it. "Blue World" has bass and piano creating a hypnotic groove, with tenor saxophone and drums sensing the opening to gather strength and allow the group to stretch out in a way that they would do in the music to come following this session. A light touch on piano and cymbals opens "Village Blues (Take 1)" and the band is very patient, no one rushes, even when Coltrane takes off with cells of louder and faster notes, similar to "Village Blues (Take 3)" where Tyner adds notes and ornaments to the overall sound and theme, and Elvin hits a little harder, trying to push the beat. Coltrane's solo is unaffected though, hewing close to the melody. "Like Sonny" has a nimble and faster thematic statement, with a cool rhythm anchored by excellent bass, the perfect setting for Coltrane to open up with a brief but intense solo playing with a wonderfully focused sound. The lengthiest track on the album is "Traneing In" which features a lengthy bass solo which is very impressive, leading to a section for the full rhythm section. Coltrane takes over for the final two minutes, pushing confidently into his hottest solo of the album. The album concludes with a bookending version "Naima (Take 2)" with the same endearing theme, but altered slightly with more strident saxophone and piano comping than the first take, and slightly heavier drum emphasis. This was an an enjoyable album, not a revelatory discovery, but it is important to remember that Coltrane was trying to providing music to set the mood of a film he hadn't even seen, and this music was taken from what is essentially an in studio jam session. It can also be seen as Coltrane taking one final look back at some of his earlier more melodic material before he began the headlong rush of his final three years. Blue World - amazon.com

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