There is no timeframe around the music of John Coltrane. Okay, it was created during a period of 25 years, between 1942 and mid-1967, and the music in this 7-CD boxed set of John Coltrane's complete recorded output for Atlantic Records was all cut very specifically during the two years between 1959 and 1961. But Trane's music is timeless, for the ages, and it'll sound just as good 200 years from today as it did the day it was recorded.
So there's no hurry to get this box in your home. Save your money, wait and pray, and when you do enter the musical world delineated on these discs, something utterly wonderful will be there waiting for you, just as it's been sitting there waiting almost 35 years to be collected, collated and presented in strict chronological order like this.
John Coltrane's Atlantic recordings saw the light of day in somewhat different order. After spending the previous three years making every possible kind of session for Prestige, Blue Note, Bethlehem, Savoy, Jubilee and other small labels (his recordings for Prestige alone run to more than 18 compact discs), Trane determined upon signing an exclusive contract with Atlantic at the beginning of 1959 to take full control of his music, strike out on his own as a bandleader and present a series of albums of his original works as coherent statements of intent and execution.
The first, released in January 1960, was called Giant Steps and featured Trane with Tommy Flanagan, Paul Chambers and Arthur Taylor in a carefully tailored program of new Coltrane compositions: "Giant Steps," "Cousin Mary," "Countdown," "Spiral," "Syeeda's Song Flute," "Mr. P.C." and "Naima," a gorgeous ballad that utilized the Miles Davis rhythm section of Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb.
Giant Steps followed closely upon the release of Miles Davis's monumental album, Kind of Blue, recorded for Columbia Records in 1959, which had established Coltrane as the pre-eminent tenor saxophonist of his generation. Cloaked in a striking red and white cover, Giant Steps cooked from beginning to end, thrusting Trane's gigantic sound, indefatigable drive and compositional genius even further into the forefront of modern music.
While listeners in 1960 were struck by the exceptional power and coherence of Coltrane's statement on the Giant Steps album, the posthumous release of the Alternate Takes album in 1975 revealed the full extent of his preparations for recording his first Atlantic disc.
The first quartet he assembled, with Cedar Walton on piano, bassist Paul Chambers and Lex Humphries on drums, cut a session on March 26, 1959 which Coltrane completely rejected. He regrouped with Flanagan, Chambers and Taylor for the May 4-5, 1959 sessions that resulted in the Giant Steps album, and even then there were two completed takes each of "Countdown," "Syeeda's Song Flute" and "Cousin Mary." This meticulousness of preparation was to characterize his ground-breaking work with Atlantic and paid off beautifully at each session.
Coltrane struck next with a brilliant set called Coltrane Jazz, seven more musical gems recorded with the Miles Davis rhythm section and a single selection, "Village Blues," which introduced his 1960 quartet with McCoy Tyner, Steve Davis and Elvin Jones.
Coltrane Jazz is one of Trane's finest pre-Impulse albums with its lilting swing, precision of statement and great originals like "Some Other Blues," "Like Sonny," "Fifth House" and "Harmonique." The obscure pop tunes — "Little Old Lady," the gorgeously played "I'll Wait and Pray," and Trane's lusty reading of "My Shining Hour" — only enhance the handsome program of Coltrane compositions.
But it was "Village Blues" that turned people's heads early in 1961 when Coltrane Jazz was released. Here was something completely fresh and new from the well-established tenor saxophonist : a wholly distinctive rhythm section sound with the leader featured on top of a slow droning blues limned by Tyner's chording piano and underlined by the stark, complex polyrhythms of Elvin Jones.
Unknown to contemporary listeners, the new approach glimpsed on "Village Blues" had already come and gone in the studios of Atlantic Records. Recorded at three mammoth sessions cut between October 21-26, 1960, which produced nineteen masters — 13 Coltrane originals and six radical reworkings of pop tunes — and eventually filled three entire Atlantic albums, the music of the Coltrane-Tyner-Steve Davis-Elvin Jones quartet served basically as a transitional vehicle which would take Trane to the next level of his development as a soloist, bandleader and recording artist.
Indeed, by the time he cut his final session for Atlantic in May 1961, Coltrane was featuring his new musical partner, Eric Dolphy, in a program of long Moorish- and West African-inspired modal works ("Ole," "Dahomey Dance"), and working with Dolphy and Tyner in preparing orchestral arrangements of recent compositions for his first Impulse Records date, issued as Africa/Brass.
But it was the first full release by the new John Coltrane Quartet, an album titled My Favorite Things, that etched a new template for post-modern jazz and propelled Trane into the hearts of the record-buying public. Released in March 1961, this collection of standards and show tunes — done up in hypnotic, trance-inducing fashion and driven by the amazing percussive artistry of Elvin Jone — captured the public imagination in a big way, eventually selling over a million copies.
Most stunning was Trane's long workout on the title track, a bit of Rodgers & Hammerstein fluff from...
The Heavyweight Champion
The Complete Atlantic Recordings
1 Stairway to the Stars (Malneck, Signorelli, Parish) 3:22
2 The Late Late Blues (Jackson) 9:36
3 Bags & Trane (Jackson) 7:26
4 Three Little Words (Ruby, Kalmar) 7:30
5 The Night We Called It a Day (Dennis, Adair) 4:22
6 Be-Bop (Gillespie) 8:01
7 Blues Legacy (Jackson) 9:04
8 Centerpiece (Edison, Tennyson) 7:09
9 Giant Steps [alt. version] (Coltrane) 3:44
10 Naima [alt. version] (Coltrane) 4:31
11 Like Sonny [alt. version] (Coltrane) 6:02
1 Spiral (Coltrane) 5:59
2 Countdown (Coltrane) 2:24
3 Countdown [alt. take] (Coltrane) 4:34
4 Syeeda's Song Flute (Coltrane) 7:03
5 Syeeda's Song Flute [alt. take] (Coltrane) 7:07
6 Mr. P.C. (Coltrane) 6:59
7 Giant Steps (Coltrane) 4:46
8 Cousin Mary (Coltrane) 5:48
9 Cousin Mary [alt. take] (Coltrane) 5:47
10 I'll Wait and Pray (Valentine, Treadwell) 3:34
11 I'll Wait and Pray [alt. take] (Valentine, Treadwell) 3:28
12. Little Old Lady (Carmichael, Adams) 4:24
1 Like Sonny (Coltrane) 5:55
2 Harmonique (Coltrane) 4:13
3 My Shining Hour (Marcer, Arlen) 4:52
4 Naima (Coltrane) 4:22
5 Some Other Blues (Coltrane) 5:36
6 Fifth House (Coltrane) 4:41
7 Cherryco (Cherry) 6:47
8 The Blessing (Coleman) 7:53
9 Focus on Sanity (Coleman) 12:13
10 The Invisible (Coleman) 4:12
11 Bemsha Swing (Monk, Best) 5:04
1 Village Blues (Coltrane) 5:23
2 Village Blues [alt. take] (Coltrane) 6:17
3 My Favorite Things (Rodgers, Hammerstein) 13:44
4 Central Park West (Coltrane) 4:14
5 Mr. Syms (Coltrane) 5:22
6 Untitled Original (Exotica) (Coltrane) 5:22
7 Summertime (Heyward, Gershwin) 11:34
8 Body and Soul (Green, Sour, Heyman, Eyton) 5:38
9 Body and Soul [alt. take] (Green, Sour, Heyman, Eyton) 5:59
10 Mr. Knight (Coltrane) 7:31
1 Blues to Elvin [alt. take] (Jones) 11:01
2 Blues to Elvin (Jones) 7:53
3 Mr. Day (Coltrane) 7:56
4 Blues to You [alt. take] (Coltrane) 5:35
5 Blues to You (Coltrane) 6:29
6 Blues to Bechet (Coltrane) 5:46
7 Satellite (Coltrane) 5:51
8 Everytime We Say Goodbye (Porter) 5:41
9 26-2 (Coltrane) 6:13
10 But Not for Me (Gershwin, Gershwin) 9:34
1 Liberia (Coltrane) 6:52
2 The Night Has a Thousand Eyes (Bernier, Brainin) 6:51
3 Equinox (Coltrane) 8:35
4 Olé (Coltrane) 18:15
5 Dahomey Dance (Coltrane) 10:52
6 Aisha (Tyner) 7:39
7 Original Untitled Ballad (To Her Ladyship) (Frazier) 8:58
1 Giant Steps [take 1 - inc.] (Coltrane) 4:44
2 Giant Steps [take 2 - false start] (Coltrane) 0:14
3 Giant Steps [take 3 - inc.] (Coltrane) 2:51
4 Giant Steps [take 4 - inc.] (Coltrane) 1:19
5 Giant Steps [take 5 - alt. take] (Coltrane) 3:40
6 Giant Steps [take 6 - false start] (Coltrane) 0:32
7 Giant Steps [take 7 - inc.] (Coltrane) 4:12
8 Naima [take 1 - inc.] (Coltrane) 3:20
9 Naima [take 2 - inc.] (Coltrane) 3:24
10. Naima [take 4 - false start] (Coltrane) 0:15
11. Naima [take 5 - alt. take] (Coltrane) 3:50
12 Naima [take 6 - alt. take] (Coltrane) 3:38
13 Like Sonny [rehearsal 1 - false start] (Coltrane) 0:09
14 Like Sonny [rehearsal 2 - inc.] (Coltrane) 1:32
15 Like Sonny [take 1 - false start] (Coltrane) 0:20
16 Like Sonny [take 2 - inc.] (Coltrane) 3:09
17 Like Sonny [take 3 - inc.] (Coltrane) 1:08
18 Like Sonny [take 4 - false start] (Coltrane) 0:07
19 Like Sonny [take 5 - alt. take] (Coltrane) 8:24
20 Like Sonny [take 6 - inc.] (Coltrane) 1:09
21 Giant Steps [take 3 - inc.] (Coltrane) 4:06
22 Giant Steps [take 6 - alt. take] (Coltrane) 4:54
23 Blues to Elvin [take 2 - false start] (Coltrane) 0:10
24 Blues to Elvin [take 3 - alt. take] (Coltrane) 5:02
25 Blues to You [take 2 - alt. take] (Coltrane) 5:30
Featuring John Coltrane, Don Cherry, Milt Jackson, Percy Heath, Ed Blackwell, McCoy Tyner, Steve Davis, Elvin Jones, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb, Charlie Haden, Cedar Walton, Lex Humphries, Tommy Flanagan, Art Taylor, Hank Jones, Connie Kay.
Recorded at Atlantic Studio and A&R Studios, New York City ; between January 15, 1959 and May 25, 1961
(See the complete artwork)
...The Sound of Music then associated with Mary Martin and the Broadway cast, on which Coltrane featured his newly-acquired soprano saxophone. No one who heard this record was untouched by its simplicity, grace and emotional depth, and it brought Coltrane to the attention of a much wider audience than he had hitherto enjoyed — an audience which would sustain him and his bands through the last six turbulent years of his residency here on Earth.
My Favorite Things stayed on the turntables of America's jazz lovers throughout 1961, bringing endless pleasure with Trane's absolutely idiosyncratic readings of "Summertime," "But Not For Me," the lovely ballad "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" and the irresistible title tune.
But Coltrane had moved a long way in a very short time, and the contrast between the old Trane and the new was perfectly effected when Atlantic countered the Impulse release of Africa/Brass at the end of 1961 with a straight-ahead, post-bop-and-blues set featuring the saxophonist with vibraharpist Milt Jackson and an unabashedly conservative rhythm section of Hank Jones, Paul Chambers and the MJQ's Connie Kay, recorded at Trane's first session for Atlantic on January 15, 1959.
Africa/Brass took My Favorite Things and Coltrane's next Atlantic release, Ole' Coltrane, issued in February 1962, another giant step further down the road toward the utter freedom of expression and articulation of emotion he was then beginning to realize on-stage in the company of Eric Dolphy, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones.
Trane's powerful tenor playing on "Africa" and "Blues Minor," raging over a large, rumbling orchestra directed by Dolphy and Tyner, lifted the music to new heights of emotional expression and instrumental virtuosity, and his soprano saxophonics on the old English folk tune, "Greensleeves," firmly established the straight horn as something a whole generation of reed players would have to come to terms with.
Once Coltrane's Impulse records starting coming out — Africa/Brass, Live at the Village Vanguard, Coltrane and the rest — his remaining Atlantic releases served the same function as the Miles Davis Quintet's series of albums — Cookin', Relaxin', Workin' and Steamin' — issued by Prestige after Miles had gone on to Columbia Records in 1956 : they documented the immense artistic achievement of one of the greatest small jazz bands of all time as its members committed their current repertoire — literally, the state of their art — to recording tape over three long days in the studio.
The material recorded contemporaneously with the program of standards issued as My Favorite Things made up the next two Atlantic LPs. Coltrane Plays the Blues — released in July 1962, around the same time that Live at the Village Vanguard came out on Impulse — collected a series of blues performances by the quartet which took this basic African-American song form past the existing limits of musical abstraction, yet consistently filled it with as much feeling and fundamental compassion as a performance by Robert Johnson or Muddy Waters.
Coltrane's Sound, issued in June 1964, collects most of the rest of the masters from the October 1960 sessions, including the extremely urgent "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes," Trane's re-casting of "Body and Soul" in his own image, and four stellar originals : "Liberia," "Central Park West," "Satellite" and "Equinox." While this music sounded hopelessly dated at the time of its release — it had to compete with the epochal Coltrane Live at Birdland, then just out on Impulse — it is immensely rewarding when heard in the actual context of its creation, as you may do by playing Discs 3, 4, 5, and 6 from the Atlantic box in successive order.
The last Atlantic album to come out before Trane's untimely demise in July 1967 shocked attentive Coltrane worshippers at the same time it filled in an overlooked sector of the map of the saxophonist's development. Titled The Avant-Garde : John Coltrane & Don Cherry, this April 1966 release presented Trane in the company of the Ornette Coleman band of July 1960, struggling alongside pocket trumpeter Don Cherry to make sense of some of Ornette's most brilliant early works : "Invisible," "The Blessing," "Focus on Sanity." Monk's "Bemsha Swing" is also on the program, plus Don Cherry's "Cherryco," and the rhythm section is Edward Blackwell with Charlie Haden or Percy Heath.
The Avant-Garde clearly illuminates the parameters of Coltrane's quest to make something newly and uniquely his own between the severe classicism of Giant Steps and Coltrane Jazz and the hyponotic intensity of My Favorite Things, Coltrane Plays the Blues, Coltrane's Sound and Ole' Coltrane.
Coltrane had already explored in depth the musical worlds of Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, recorded with George Russell and Cecil Taylor, wood-shedded with Yusef Lateef and John Gilmore (of the Sun Ra Arkestra), studied African drumming with Olatunji and Indian ragas with Ravi Shankar (after whom he was to name his son), and now completed his investigations into outside sources with a full-scale immersion into the music of Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry and Edward Blackwell.
When he formed his master quartet and entered the Atlantic studios on October 21, 1960 to record "Village Blues" and "My Favorite Things," John Coltrane was finally ready to put his own ineradicable mark on the shape of jazz to come.
Well, it's all here in The Heavyweight Champion, a box of music that will bring its listeners countless hours of joy and enlightenment. The music is presented in exactly the order in which it was recorded, alternate takes as well as masters, and there's a stunning cloth-bound booklet of information, photographs and testimony to answer your every question about the Atlantic years of the great master saxophonist, composer and bandleader.
The previously issued material takes up six full CDs, and then there's a bonus disc of session chatter, outtakes and alternates that will put you straight in the studio with John Coltrane and his band as they perfect their approach to such all-time classics as "Giant Steps," "Naima" and "Like Sonny."
Let us briefly express our appreciation to the late Nesuhi Ertegun, who produced the Atlantic sessions ; Joel Dorn, producer of this compilation ; Lewis Porter, who assisted in its production and contributed the superb set of booklet notes; and Patrick Milligan, for his fine discography of the Atlantic sessions and for pulling this incredible project together.
The Heavyweight Champion joins the Ornette Coleman box of complete Atlantic recordings as essential and much-needed documents of the development of the contemporary creative music known as jazz. And may we suggest, while you're at it : The Complete Atlantic Recordings of Charles Mingus. Oh yeah !
New Orleans, October 20, 1995 (c) 1995, 2006 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.
Source : http://www.johnsinclair.us/writings/51-reviews/788-john-coltrane-the-heavyweight-champion-the-complete-atlantic-recordings.html