Sunday, June 15, 2008

Jazz Library 6: Coltrane Crawlin'

Miles Davis' two quintets can form the spine of a good jazz library, as I argued in my previous post. But a second body of work would do just as well: the corpus of John Coltrane's recordings. Trane is surely the only serious rival to Davis as the most influential player, leader, and composer of the fifties and sixties. He is arguably more popular than Davis.

Coltrane left an extraordinarily rich and endlessly delightful body of music. His most important recordings come after he left Davis and formed his own great quartet with McCoy Tyner. I'll get around to that, but lets start at the beginning. Prestige Records has issued an excellent boxed set of Trane's recordings in 1957 and 58, John Coltrane: Fearless Leader. I blogged about it some time ago at SDP. The entire box is available at eMusic.

Here is a fair sample of the first session, a Coltrane composition called Chronic Blues. Johnny Splawn is on trumpet, Mal Waldron on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Albert "Tootie" Heath on Drums. But the most interesting player on this set is Shiab Shihab on baritone saxophone. His slithering lines add a touch that makes me wonder why this instrument is relatively rare in jazz.

John Coltane/Chronic Blues/Fearless Leader/1957
If you like it, get the box.

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