John Coltrane: Blue Train

After years of standards, the saxophonist's potential as band leader and composer was unleashed - not by a British politician but Blue Note


This is one of the great jazz records of all time. Coltrane had served two years with Miles Davis and six months with Thelonious Monk, and he was ready. He had already made LPs for Prestige but because no time was allowed for rehearsal, or anything else for that matter, he only recorded blues and I Got Rhythm variants or standards.

Blue Note gave him freedom to play his own compositions for the first time and his choice of sidemen. He chose well with the young trumpet sensation of the time, Lee Morgan, and new trombone man Curtis Fuller. The rhythm section was ideal with his Miles running-mates Paul Chambers on bass, Davis favourite Philly Joe Jones on drums and Kenny Drew, with whom he had worked in Hollywood recently, on piano. The set up looked as if it was ideal for an exceptional jazz recording and Coltrane duly delivered. 

In 1957 he was not yet widely known as Trane, so the album commenced with a lengthy blues called Blue Train. Coltrane’s surging, preaching, opening solo on Train is one of the most arresting sounds in jazz. Much the same applies to Moment’s Notice which follows on. The solos on both build progressively as the solid rhythm section drive him steadily on with a pulse that holds everything and everybody together. The time never wavers for a fraction of a second. Morgan, Fuller and Drew follow with bright, enthusiastic solo efforts but they must all have known they couldn’t get close to Coltrane’s contributions.

The only standard, I’m Old Fashioned, demonstrates how good a ballad player Trane already was – well, he’d had lots of practice at Columbia and Prestige. Lazy Bird is pure hard bop with Coltrane variations, and all are fresh and exciting, or they were in 1957. The music has stood the test of time and then some and will sound just as fresh in 2062.

This is an attractive, newly remastered vinyl set with new and original notes, and it includes a bonus track from a record Trane made on the West Coast in 1956 with Drew, Chambers and Jones only. A well-chosen bonus, it has a powerful Trane blues solo and a boisterous drum solo by Philly as only he could play them at that time. It’s the icing on a swinging cake.

(1) Blue Train; Moment’s Notice (2) East Bound (1); Locomotion; I’m Old Fashioned; Lazy Bird (46.38)
(1) Coltrane (ts); Lee Morgan (t); Curtis Fuller (tb); Kenny Drew (p); Paul Chambers (b); Philly Joe Jones (d). New Jersey, 15 September 1957. (2) as (1) but omit Morgan and Fuller. Los Angeles, 2 March 1956.
Waxtime 771673