Friday, July 03, 2020

John Coltrane Quartet - My Favorite Things: Graz 1962 (ezz-thetics, 2020)

This is the second half of the Graz, Austria concert, following on from last year's Impressions, presented thematically rather than chronologically. The music is lovingly remastered and sounding much better than the many bootleg versions that have circulated among collectors for decades. This is the "classic" John Coltrane quartet with the leader on tenor and soprano saxophones, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. Coltrane was always in motion, but liner note writer Art Lange does a good job setting the scene, writing about how he was pressured by his label to produce more melodic content and how that grated against his relentless desire to explore. He manages to do a little bit of both on these four selections, beginning with "Mr. P.C." which tumbles out fast and pure with sparkling piano and shimmering cymbals leading to an excellent lengthy rhythm trio section. Coltrane re-enters, and picks up the pace, testing all of the logical limits of the composition. Jones steps up and really begins to hit hard, combined with Coltrane's complex playing and deep engagement with the drummer comes to the front as Tyner hangs back. Slashing cymbals and furious tenor saxophone leads to a wonderful two minute drum solo before the full band returns to the conclusion. "Every Time We Say Goodbye" is a sort palate cleansing ballad with Coltrane's tenor stating the melody in a patient and well structured manner. There is a light and nimble section for piano, bass and drums, then Coltrane returns leading everyone back to the theme. The leader uses a lighter tone at times during the lengthy exploration of "Bye By Blackbird" which is taken at a medium tempo that gradually gains momentum. The band gradually turns to the Coltrane - Jones conjunction, with Garrison providing a firm foundation. The rhythm section gets a fine opening with Tyner dancing lightly over Jones's cymbals before opening the door for a long and intricate bass solo. Jones and Coltrane come back strong as the band takes the tune out. The final track is a massive version of "My Favorite Things" with Coltrane moving to soprano saxophone, and the song's theme sounding like a clarion call no matter how many times you hear them play it. Tyner adds waves of flowing piano as the leader probes before bowing out for the rhythm section. They are wonderful here with Tyner playing gracefully and hypnotically astride stoic bass and cymbals with the occasional percussive surprise. Coltrane comes back midway through, once again stating the melody, and then extrapolating upon it. There is more intense full band playing with Jones driving the rhythm deeply, and Coltrane developing a distinctly Eastern sounding tone to his saxophone as they glide to the finish. This was a very good example of the evolution of John Coltrane and his famous quartet at the end of 1962, staying true to himself regardless of pressure or criticism. My Favorite Things: Graz 1962 -

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