Reviews that mention John Coltrane

January 8, 2022

John Coltrane

A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle
Impulse! Records BOOO34290-02

Like the recently published alternate version of “To Kill a Mockingbird”, or more appropriately a newly discovered different director’s cut of a classic film, the live version of John Coltrane’s seminal work offers a deeper understanding of the suite. Featuring four interludes among the familiar themes and three additional sequences along with the initially recorded four, the program is now more than twice the length of the original release.

Despite the new time there isn’t any excess on Live in Seattle. Recorded in a nightclub setting less than a year after the original studio taped suite, the program shows that the never satisfied Coltrane was already tinkering with A Love Supreme’s sound and format. Lacking the vocal chant, instead the piece is opened up for more expressions from the original participants and guests. For instance the final interludes are given over to an extended solo by bassist Jimmy Garrison where his supple and sliding thumps take on flamenco power while also reasserting to the theme. Drummer Elvin Jones’ constant barrage of cymbal and drum power is showcased as well. His rhythmic strength is confirmed as he directs the narrative forward, while several interludes give him space to emphasis bass drum pounding, ringing mallet-on-cymbal tones and a collection of shuffles and backbeats. Pianist McCoy Tyner not only provides the proper accompaniment for the three saxophone soloists, but also constructs solos as on “Pursuance “, which are both modal and melodic. While he digs deep into his instrument’s lowest pitches to expand his enthralling time shifting, sparking swing asides prevent the program from becoming too so-called far out. MORE

January 26, 2016

John Coltrane

A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters
Impulse B0023727-02

Arguably the best-known session in modern Jazz with the possible exception of trumpeter Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue five years earlier, A Love Supreme has since 1965 been universally acknowledged as the paramount achievement of saxophonist John Coltrane and his classic quartet. But like variants of familiar fairy tales which are subject to neoteric interpretations following the unearthing of ancillary information or up-to-date translations, A Love Supreme music involves more than the four tracks that made up the original LP with pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones. Packaged with a 30-page book of analysis, musical notation and photographers plus 2½ additional CDs of music, this set could be regarded the same way as a Mishna, Catenist or Cursus commentary on the bible. While preserving the original text or LP, the additions deepen and amplify the experience. MORE

January 6, 2016

On The Cover

Rova: Still Creative After All These Years
By Ken Waxman

Someone once described Rova as the Grateful Dead of Jazz. A comparison to the Rolling Stones would be more accurate. For more than 38 years, with only one change in personnel 27 years ago, the Bay area-based saxophone quartet has created high quality music. However unlike the venerable British rockers whose music hasn’t been cutting edge for decades, Rova continues to evolve and experiment.

Case in point: this month’s series of NYC concerts. From the 19th to the 24th, the band’s residency at The Stone offers a retrospective of classic Rova material as well as new works. Some sets will feature Rova and guest musicians, some of whom have never played with the band before. Before that, on January 17th at Le Poisson Rouge, an expanded Rove ensemble will perform Electric Ascension, a 21st Century re-imagining of John Coltrane’s classic work. Concurrently, RogueArt will release Channeling Coltrane, containing a live performance of Electric Ascension from the 2012 Guelph Jazz Festival on DVD and Blue-ray; a CD of the music itself; plus Cleaning the Mirror, a documentary that mixes the story of Rova’s Ascension adaptation with a history of the creation of Coltrane’s seminal session. MORE

October 14, 2013

Lest We Forget:

Julius Watkins (1921-1977)
By Ken Waxman

A stylist whose innovative work in the ‘50s and ‘60s putting the French horn into a jazz context is analogous to what Coleman Hawkins did for the tenor saxophone and Louis Armstrong for the trumpet 30 years earlier, Julius Watkins almost singlehandedly created a viable role for the curved horn during the bop and post-bop eras.

Born in Detroit on October 10, 1921, Watkins began playing the French horn at nine in his school band and continued his studies at that city’s famous Cass Technical High School. Although he also played trumpet during a three year stint in Ernie Fields’ territory band in the mid-‘40s, by the end of the decade he had already recorded on his chosen instrument on sides with drummer Kenny Clarke and vocalist Babs Gonzales and toured as a hornist with pianist Milt Buckner’s band. After studying at the Manhattan School of Music in 1952, he spent the next quarter century in NYC. Within a few years he had recorded a couple of 10-inch LPs for Blue Note, featuring heavyweight such as tenor saxophonists Frank Foster or Hank Mobley, drummers Kenny Clarke or Art Blakey and bassist Oscar Pettiford. MORE

November 6, 2012

Lest We Forget:

Gigi Gryce (1927-1983)
By Ken Waxman

Arguably the most accomplished jazz musician to abandon his career at the height of his fame then make his mark elsewhere, was alto saxophonist Gigi Gryce. Gryce was one of jazz’s most creative composer-arrangers, whose precisely organized small groups and now classic tunes such as “Minority”, “Nica’s Tempo” and “Social Call” established new orchestral possibilities in the ‘50s and ‘60s. However he abruptly abandoned music in 1963 and spent the remainder of his life teaching music and other subjects full time. After his death, his educational achievements were honored when the Bronx public school at which he taught was renamed for him. MORE

January 31, 2005

Free Jazz and Free Improvisation

An Encyclopedia by Todd S. Jenkins
Greenwood Press Volume One A-J; Volume Two K-Z

By Ken Waxman

January 31, 2005

Reviewing a stand-alone project like Free Jazz and Free Improvisation presents a unique set of challenges, since you must deal with what isn’t covered in the 500-odd oversized pages of these two volumes as much as what is.

From the downbeat author Todd Jenkins has to be commended for his Herculean task, collecting from various sources essential information about Free Music and putting it into approachable form for the student, the researcher as well as the improvisational newbie. MORE

October 8, 2001


The Olatunji Concert: The Last Live Recording
Impulse! 314 589 120-2

What's probably the most unexpected surprise about this more than 34-year-old music recorded by saxophonist John Coltrane final band at the Olatunji Center of African Culture in Harlem, and finally legitimately released, is just how powerful it is.

Although taped just three months before he died of liver cancer at 40, when the saxophonist was so out of sorts that he had to play sitting down, you'd never realize the extent of his infirmity from this performance.

Coltrane was improvising at the same exalted level on this April afternoon in 1967 as well as he ever he did during most of his short life. With such seem-bursting compatriots as tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and drummer Rashied Ali could he have done anything else? MORE