JJ 01/63: John Coltrane – “Live” At The Village Vanguard

Sixty years ago Gerald Lascelles thought the tenor on Chasin' might as well have been a Bangalore torpedo or the exhaust system of the B.R.M. First published in Jazz Journal January 1963


This album is, I believe, the first “live” work we have had from that prolific studio recorder, John Coltrane. The group is basically the same as the one we heard on his visit to England in 1961; it was in fact recorded only a few days before he arrived here.

On the first side he plays only soprano, and sounds rather more lyrical than on some recent records. Even so, I find his line of thought hard to follow, and only the basic simplicity of the “Spiritual” theme enables me to survive the test.

More to my taste is McCoy Tyner’s piano solo on this track, excellently formed and well played, although even he could afford to tidy up his style in places. “Sunrise” is the easiest track to listen to, and there are several points where Coltrane almost touches ground.

The long “Chasin’ ” which fills the second side is typical of the stuff he played to audiences here, and the less I hear of it the better. Although the sleeve claims that he plays tenor, I can­not detect it. It might just as well be a Bangalore torpedo or the exhaust system of the B.R.M.! Accepting that it is a tenor, why should he have to try and play it like a damaged soprano, sub­jecting listeners to an incessant barrage of weird screeches and honks which are frankly distasteful to even the most re­ceptive ears. Is it my imagination that the head of the dog in the famous trade mark on the label is turned slightly to one side, as if enquiring of his master what it is all about?

Anyone who wishes to live with the experiment had better get this album. The rest would do better to hold off and wait for the final product, if there ever is one.

(a) Spiritual; (b) Softly As In A Morning Sunrise (19 min) – (c) Chasin’ The Trane (16 min)
(a) John Coltrane (sop); Eric Dolphy (bs-clt): McCoy Tyner (p); Reggie Workman (bs); Elvin Jones (d). New York City, 2-3 November, 1961.
(b) as (a) but without Dolphy.
(c) as (b); Coltrane (ten).
(H.M.V. CSD 1456 12inLP 34s. 4½d.)