Saturday, September 18, 2021

John Coltrane - Chasin' the Trane Revisited (ezz-thetics records, 2021)

Tenor and soprano saxophonist John Coltrane had recently signed with the newly formed Impulse! record label and settled on what would be his greatest band featuring pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones when these epochal recordings were committed to tape in 1961. Coltrane's friend and colleague Eric Dolphy sits in on several performances on bass clarinet, adding another unique solo voice and added texture in the ensemble passages. Only three performances were released on the original LP, with the remainder trickling out over the years on different albums and compilations, and this collection more than doubles the original length. The track "Spiritual" bookends this collection, allowing the group to review the gospel tradition in jazz, building two beautiful and haunting performances with Eric Dlophy sitting in on bass clarinet. "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise" in the lone ballad presented here, with Coltrane on soprano saxophone and McCoy Tyner perfectly in his element, playing lovely accompaniment and taking a gracefully melodic solo. The epic blues improvisation “Chasin' the Trane” is the centerpiece of this album, one that breaks down into a storming free duet with Coltrane and Elvin Jones. The headlong rush of the tenor saxophone on the sixteen minute version of "Chasin'" that was featured as side two of the original LP is still in my mind one of the most amazing and audacious accomplishments in the history of jazz. Tyner lays out and Garrison is drowned out as Coltrane and Jones break free of structure and reach for the stars. This was one of the things that led tin-eared critics to accuse Coltrane as playing deliberately un-melodic music, but closer listening reveals this to be an awesome, logical and inherently beautiful piece of music. Coltrane was interested in the sounds produced by people of other countries and this led him to compose the beautiful "India." The music is an exotic blend of jazz and sounds from the east and the juxtaposition of Coltrane’s soprano saxophone and Eric Dolphy’s bass clarinet is alluring, especially with two bass players holding down the bottom. "Impressions" would become one of the pieces that all future tenor saxophonists would measure themselves against, and the performance here are blistering examples of saxophone mastery. Over the course of nearly fifteen minutes, the band plays one of the most epic slash and burn modal jazz performances set to tape, influencing generations of jazz musicians to come. At the time, Live at the Village Vanguard was quite controversial at the time where allegations of being "anti-jazz" were levied against both John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy. In retrospect, these feelings were clearly misplaced, and both musicians were simply moving forward at a breathless pace. This is a very well done one disc repackaging of highlights from the 1961 Vanguard recordings. The music is well mastered, taken right to the edge of what one compact disc can hold and given a fine liner essay from Derek Taylor to provide historical context. Chasin' the Trane Revisited - Squidco

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