Tuesday, April 06, 2021

John Coltrane Quartet - Newport, New York, Alabama, 1963 Revisited (ezz-thetics, 2021)

Ezz-thetics Records continues is re-examination of John Coltrane's live work, moving from Graz 1962 to two concerts in America in 1963. For the Newport Festival concert, Roy Haynes sits in on drums for an ailing Elvin Jones, but the remainder of the album presents the "classic" quartet at its peak: John Coltrane on tenor and soprano saxophones, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. Beginning with the July 7 concert at the Newport Jazz Festival, the group sounds well prepared for a very exciting set beginning with a wistful "I Want to Talk About You" that opens the performance and is marked as truly special by incorporating some breathtaking unaccompanied tenor saxophone near the end. "My Favorite Things" was a staple of nearly every performance from this band, and it gets an extended seventeen minute plus workout here with ample solo space for McCoy Tyner. A long burning version of the Coltrane original "Impressions" follows with the leader sending wave upon wave of improvised saxophone to a delirious audience. It's fascinating to listen to Haynes here, he has a lighter and more fluid touch that is ideally suited to bebop, but he makes the transition well to the modal music and provides Coltrane with a much different foil then the thundering Jones. Elvin Jones returns for the Live in Birdland sessions recorded during October and November, and his presence is immediately felt in the live tracks, beginning with a powerful version of "Afro Blue" with a cruising rhythm section interlude before Coltrane returns to put the hammer down and develop a scalding collective improvisation that is felt as much as heard. "I Want to Talk About You" is repeated, once again adding a daredevil solo saxophone improvisation that is vibrant and thrillingly alive, and "The Promise" is the final live track, where Jones effortlessly develops beautiful rhythms, and Tyner sparkles aside Garrison's weighty bass and Coltrane's extraordinary soprano saxophone, which towers over it all. This re-issue was designed to focus on the live material, but Derek Taylor says in his fine liner notes that the remainder of the studio tracks, particularly "Alabama" were included as a nod to the Black Lives Matter movement and the drive for social justice that Coltrane exemplified. "Alabama," written after the racist church bombing in Birmingham killed four African American children. It is a sad, quiet tune, but the power and the grace that it represents goes far beyond the world of music and remains one of John Coltrane's towering achievements. This was a very well done re-issue, with like minded live mater grouped material giving a sense of the group's progress along side relevant studio material. The remastering is strong and the music is bright and vibrant, clearly produced with care. Newport, New York, Alabama, 1963, Revisited - Squidco

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