Friday, December 19, 2008

Best Jazz Compositions 5: Trane's Naima

In picking out the best single Coltrane composition (excluding the epic works), it was a hard call between 'Naima' and 'Lonnie's Lament'. Heck, maybe I'll include that one too before I get to number ten. But I seem to have the impression that 'Naima' has been covered more often.

This is surely Coltrane's most lyrical and romantic moment. Like all great romances, it strikes a very simple and pure artery of passion. It appears on Trane's Giant Steps, his single most inventive album. Here is a bit from
First, it’s a gorgeous piece of writing – how many times has “Naima” been covered over the years? – and, second, it is played with great patience and restraint. The tune runs only 4 minutes 21 seconds, but the quartet is in no rush to get there. In mood, “Naima” shares traits with Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue album, on which Coltrane played a key role just months earlier, but this is a very different piece of work, because there’s a real melody here. The rhythm section holds back while Coltrane blows simple, unadorned passages that haunt, and pianist Wynton Kelly delivers a touching solo of his own. Once while listening to this song, pay attention only to bassist Paul Chambers’ thump-thump- thumping. It’s quite revealing.
I won't try to compete with that. But here is one of my favorite covers, by one of my favorite under appreciated jazz geniuses: Arthur Blythe. 'Naima' from Blythe Byte. Blythe's horn is a bit more lush than one would expect, on top of John Hicks understated piano. Can't lose with this one.

1 comment:

  1. THE most beautiful ballad in jazz, in my opinion. Those last 12 bars that Coltrane plays though very simply stated, may be the most beautiful moments of any jazz recording.