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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke

IMPULSE! 549 913-2

( John Coltrane 75th Anniversary )

Collective personnel: John Coltrane-Tenor and Soprano Saxophones, Eric Dolphy-Bass Clarinet, McCoy Tyner-Piano, Duke Ellington-Piano, Jimmy Garrison-Bass, Reggie Workman-Bass, Elvin Jones-Drums, Roy Haynes-Drums, Johnny Hartman-Vocals.

1. A Love Supreme: Part 1 - Acknowledgement
2. In A Sentimental Mood
3. Bessie's Blues
4. Naima
5. Afro Blue
6. Lush Life
7. Crescent
8. Impressions-previously unissued
9. Alabama
10. My Favourite Things

Recorded 1961-1964

This release is comprised of John Coltrane's recordings on the Impulse label and covers the years 1961 - 1964. This the period when he was breaking away from the "sheets of sound" style and was embracing more of a modal concept as well as making some early experiments in a somewhat more "free" vein. This album does not feature any of the more excessive avant - garde playing ( fascinating as it was ) found on such later releases as "Cosmic Music" or "Ascension"

To describe this as "The Very Best Of John Coltrane " is perhaps unfair and somewhat misleading. Coltrane's recorded output from this era seemed to reach a plateau of quality and excellence. The "Very Best " tag also ignores his astounding earlier output on the Prestige and Atlantic labels which gave us such jewels as "Black Pearls" and "Giant Steps". A more appropriate title might have been "The Better Known Works 1961 - 1964". However, this disc does serve as a superb introduction to the listener who is not familiar with the recordings from these years.

A track by track analysis could only begin to describe the remarkable breadth of material covered here and the total commitment and intensity found on these titles. The version of "My Favourite Things" is not the famous one but comes from the live album "Newport ' 63". It is a wonderful initiation to Coltrane's concept on the soprano saxophone - an instrument which he virtually single - handedly popularised in the world of contemporary music. There are two tracks from the session with Johnny Hartman, "Lush Life" and "In A Sentimental Mood". These performances show a gentler side of Coltrane's musical persona as well as giving us an opportunity to hear the rich vocal tones of Hartman.

"Naima" and Afro - Blue" are both live takes and the former has the added delight of a superb bass clarinet outing by Eric Dolphy. "Impressions" is a real bonus in that it is a previously unissued version. It is always a source of fascination to hear the endless variations Coltrane could achieve on a composition using only two chords ( the same as Miles Davis' "So What"). This is inventive genius in its most intensely concentrated form.

" A Love Supreme" is perhaps Coltrane's most significant longer work and I think it is a mistake to issue just one part . I can only encourage anyone who enjoys "Acknowledgement" to listen to the whole suite. As one would expect the other musicians featured on this disc are all brilliant - they are, after all, amongst the great players of their chosen instruments.

Dick Stafford.

D.S. is a professional reed player and teacher living in Coventry.

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