Saturday, February 13, 2010

Coltrane 57

On the last day of May, 1957, John Coltrane recorded his first session as leader. Six out of the seven takes were released as Coltrane, not to be confused with the 1962 album of the same title.  The last cut, 'I hear a Rhapsody,' would wind up on the hodgepodge Lush Life. Here's the line-up and song list, from the essential Jazz Discography Project

Johnny Splawn (tp -1/4) John Coltrane (ts) Sahib Shihab (bars -1,3,4) Mal Waldron (p -1/3) Red Garland (p -4/7) Paul Chambers (b) Albert Heath (d) Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, May 31, 1957
1. Straight Street
2. While My Lady Sleeps
3. Chronic Blues
4. Bakai
5. Violets For Your Furs
6. Time Was
7. I Hear A Rhapsody
The great Prestige session with the Davis Quintet were behind him, but he probably looked to everyone like a great sideman with a chance to come into his own.  Coltrane was not yet his moment, but it is very solid hard bop and Trane's brilliant sound, all his own, is on fully display here.  There is just no other horn in jazz that ever opened up the same space or achieved the same velvety rich emotional texture.  

Mal Waldron plays on the first three numbers, and Red Garland thereafter.  Waldron would prove to be the genius, but I think that Garland's work on this album is superior.  

The highlight of the album, and what sets is apart from rest of the work in the Fearless Leader Box, is Sahib Shihab on  baritone sax.  Trane would later deploy a lot of low horns, especially on his Africa Brass Sessions.  I wish he had done more of that here, for the effect is electrifying.  This is especially evident on 'Bakai'.  

But here is the best cut from the May 31st session.  It is a straightforward blues, and Shihab lets it rip with his opening solo.  Trane follows, his notes climbing on top of one another in contrast to Shihab's serial blows on the baritone.  Splawn's solo is the least impressive.  He plays as if he thinks he's supposed to be keeping some kind of secret, but that's not so bad for by then the secret is out.  Waldron turns the dial back up by dissecting the melody into chunks, and the chunks into individual notes.  Each little section rings like a sweet bell tone.  I love this cut, if you can't tell. 
Chronic Blues
Coltrane 57 is well worth having your Trane set.  If you don't have it, I highly recommend the Fearless Leader box.  It is the best presentation of Coltrane' s work before he really comes into his own with Giant Steps.  The single recording is also available from eMusic for 6 credits.  

Enjoy.  Purchase.  Drop me a line. 

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