John Coltrane: Soultrane

The saxophonist's 1958 quartet album with Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Art Taylor, still on the standards, gets a vinyl reissue

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Coltrane was in transition in 1958. He had just spent an informative six months playing in Thelonious Monk’s quartet absorbing and contributing to his music. Back with Miles Davis he was developing his own idea of post-bop and just beginning to work with the modal idea.

This quartet date found him working with two friends from the Davis quintet and Art Taylor who was on most of his Prestige albums. A long workout on Dameron’s Good Bait produced some strong improvised lines at medium tempo. Garland and Chambers follow with their own solo spots before Coltrane takes it out after swapping fours with Taylor. It is a good example of interplay between the musicians and Trane was maybe thinking in terms of his own quartet which he would form two years later.

A slow, lyrical reading of Billy Eckstine’s I Want To Talk About You has Trane in inventive, melodic ballad mood all through the 10-minute duration. This track so impressed British altoist John Dankworth that he transcribed it for his students at the Royal College of Music.

With no planning or rehearsal possible at Prestige Records the leaders were forced to pick very familiar popular tunes that everybody knew or jazz standards and blues. Side one of this LP has the two jazz standards and side two features two Irving Berlin compositions played at breakneck tempo. A rarely heard standard, You Say You Care, is treated melodically by all and the slow ballad Theme For Ernie receives a raw, melancholy interpretation by Trane, back in ballad mode – quite appropriate really as it was written in dedication to Ernie Henry, the ex-Monk, Gillespie alto player who had just died of a heroin overdose aged 31. Soft Lights And Sweet Music is an extra track, taken from Trane’s 1957 album Traneing In. Soultrane itself is one of Coltrane’s best early quartet discs.


Discography

Good Bait; I Want To Talk about You; You Say You Care; Theme For Ernie; Russian Lullaby; Soft Lights And Sweet Music (44.19)
Coltrane (ts); Red Garland (p); Paul Chambers (b); Art Taylor (d). New Jersey, 23 August 1957 & 7 February 1958.
WaxTime 772332