JJ 09/61: John Coltrane – Coltrane Jazz & Blue Train

Sixty years ago Gerald Lascelles heard from Coltrane music that was creative and original if sometimes unappealing and contrived. First published in Jazz Journal September 1961

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There can be few more intense tenor players in jazz today than John Col­trane, and he transmits that intensity to his audience in a most compelling fashion. One must listen, even when the sounds he produces are not entirely pleasing.

The first LP features a quar­tet of well-proven rhythm men, and also claims to feature Coltrane on soprano saxophone. As he spends most his time making the tenor sound like an alto, I find it hard to establish any moment when I can be certain that he is in fact blowing soprano.

There are some uncomfortable moments when he launches into experimental gambits with the harmonics of his tenor – a most unattractive sound. I like the theme of his original, “Fifth House”, but find most of the others rather con­trived and over-studied.

The six-piece group which appears on the Blue Note album is more excit­ing, and Coltrane seems to blow much harder and with greater rhythmic feel­ing. Add to this Curtis Fuller’s im­pressive trombone and Lee Morgan’s intriguing trumpet over a rhythm sec­tion comprising Drew, Chambers and Philly Joe Jones and the music becomes something out of the ordinary. There seems to be far more inspiration in this group, with excellent solos from everyone. Kenny Drew’s piano work in the slow ballad “Old Fashioned” is outstanding, and no one could fail to be impressed by Trane’s handling of the blues.

I have, probably wrongly, come to accept John’s inevitable flashy runs, the apparent desire to impress his listeners that he really knows his in­strument. But how much better it would be if he would put that part aside and settle down to the serious business of playing jazz. For he is obviously a creative, imaginative and original musician.

Discography
[Coltrane Jazz] (b) Little Old Lady; (a) Village Blues; (b) My Shining Hour; (b) Fifth House (19 min) – Harmonique; (b) Like Sonny; (b) I’ll Wait And Pray; (b) Some Other Blues (19 min)
(a) John Coltrane (ten/sop) McCoy Tyner (p); Steve Davis (bs); Elvin Jones (d). (b) Coltrane (ten); Wynton Kelly (p); Paul Chambers (bs); Jimmy Cobb (d).
(London SAH-K6162 12in. LP 36s. 8d.)
[Blue Train] Blue Train; Moment’s Notice; (19¾ min) – Locomotion; I’m Old Fashioned; Lazy Bird (21¾ min)
Coltrane (ten); Curtis Fuller (tbn); Lee Morgan (tpt); Kenny Drew (p); Chambers (bs); “Philly” Joe Jones (d).
(Blue Note 1577 12in. LP 50s. 5d.)

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