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Very Best of Coltrane

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The Very Best of John Coltrane _________________________________________________

The Very Best of John Coltrane
John Coltrane
Atlantic Records

1. Giant Steps - A
(John Coltrane)

2. Cousin Mary - A
(John Coltrane)
JOHN COLTRANE: tenor sax
(Recorded May 5, 1959)

3. Naima - A
(John Coltrane)

4. Like Sonny - B
(John Coltrane)

5. My Shining Hour - B
(Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen)
JOHN COLTRANE: tenor sax
(Recorded December 2, 1959)

6. My Favorite Things - C
(Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II)
JOHN COLTRANE: soprano sax
McCOY TYNER; piano
(Recorded October 21, 1960)

7. Central Park West – G
(John Coltrane)

8. Summertime - C
(DuBose Heyward/George Gershwin)

9. Mr. Syms - F
(John Coltrane)
JOHN COLTRANE: soprano sax (7, 9) & tenor sax (3)
McCOY TYNER: piano
(Recorded October 26, 1960)

10. Equinox - C
(John Coltrane)
JOHN COLTRANE: tenor sax
McCOY TYNER: piano
(Recorded October 26, 1960)

11. Body And Soul - G
(Johnny Green/Robert Sour/Edward Heyman/Frank Eyton)
JOHN COLTRANE: tenor sax
McCOY TYNER: piano
(Recorded October 24, 1960)

Original Recordings Produced by NESUHI ERTEGUN

Compilation Produced for Release by PATRICK MILLIGAN

Remastering: DAN HERSCH/DigiPrep

Editorial Supervision: VANESSA ATKINS

Editorial Research: DANIEL GOLD MARK

Editorial Coordination: SHAWN AMOS

Art Direction: HUGH BROWN



Project Assistance:  QUINCY NEWELL, ADAM WADE

Only a small number of jazz creators have made an indelible, internationally influential impact on music. Among them: Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie-and John Coltrane.

I knew and often spoke with John, and he was really not very interested in the growing adulation of him by other musicians and listeners. He was always intent on searching for new and deeper ways to find himself-and connect with the universe of sound and feeling.

"I'm never sure of what I'm looking for," he once told me, "except that it'll be something that hasn't ever been played before; I know I'll have that feeling when I get it."

He practiced for hours every day, and his wife, Alice Coltrane, remembers, "When John would leave for work, he'd often take five instruments with him. He wanted to be ready for whatever came; his music was never complacent. How could it be? He never stopped surprising himself."

John Coltrane had total mastery of his horns, and his continual expansion, his deepening of harmonic and rhythmic possibilities were not abstract. He was not a musician who indulged in sheer technical virtuosity. He wanted to reach the emotions – the very souls of his listeners.

Awaiting the first Coltrane set in a club or putting on a new Coltrane record, I had a compelling sense of anticipation. I knew that whether it was a lyrical ballad or an explosive journey into uncharted dimensions of jazz creation, I would be propelled into the very center of his continual self-revelation.

John was known, when the spirit moved him, to play one song for a long time. However, as bassist Art Davis, who often worked with him, said, "It would not be boring. People would just be shouting."

And long after the music stopped, those penetrating sounds of the life force stayed in my head.

Coltrane's enlargement of the language of jazz did not come quickly. He knew his roots and indeed had served an apprenticeship with a series of masters of various styles and backgrounds.

Early on, he became familiar with the blues, working with Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, a powerful conjugator of the blues.

He went on to work with Jimmy Heath, also a ceaseless searcher into new ways of constructing feelings.

Then came the challenge of playing with Dizzy Gillespie's big band and small combo: Earl Bostic, who fused jazz and rhythm & blues; the sensuously lyrical Johnny Hodges; Miles Davis; and Thelonious Monk.

It was with Miles that Coltrane began to attract intense interest among musicians and listeners. Critic Ira Gitler wrote of his "continuous flow of ideas without stopping. It was almost superhuman, and the amount of energy he was using could have powered a spaceship."

During Coltrane's learning time with Thelonious Monk's group, he played for a long time at the Five Spot in New York. I was there three or four nights a week, and often there were musicians, two and three deep, at the bar.

"I learned new levels of alertness with Monk," John told me, "because if you didn't keep aware all the time of what was going on, you'd suddenly feel as if you'd stepped into a hole without a bottom to it."

Throughout his evolution into a musician, as Duke Ellington would say, beyond category, there was always the undertow of feeling, of telling a story, his story, of where he'd been and where he hoped to be in liberating all he wanted to say, and be.

And, at times, he could be a romantic, sharing memories and dreams in performances, as in this set, that any listener could immediately identify with.

His interpretation of "My Favorite Things," for example, opened a large new audience for Coltrane, because it stirred so many listeners' personal memories and desires. They were also drawn to such originals as "Cousin Mary," who was, in fact, one of John's cousins. He described her to me "as a very earthy, folksy, swinging person."

Also, as often as you may have heard "Summertime" and "Body And Soul," Coltrane opens new dimensions of getting into-of becoming part-of those standards. He renews them. And in his originals on this CD, he goes even further in revealing ways of listening that will open new vistas of musical expression for you.

Musicians used to say of particularly inventive players that they had "big ears." Coltrane's listeners also developed-and kept developing "big ears."

In J. C. Thomas' book Chasin' The Train: The Music And Mystique of John Coltrane, the extent to which Coltrane reached into the minds and souls of people around the globe is shown in this remembrance of a memorial to John at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in New York: “From all over the World, people came to pay their respects to John Coltrane in death as they had previously praised him in life. A contingent of Germans occupied a front pew; a Japanese writer did not arrive until the funeral was over but bowed as he saw the coffin placed inside the hearse; a doctor from South Africa closed his offices for three days and caught the next plane to New York on hearing the news.”

All this would have surprised Coltrane and maybe might have embarrassed him, because he never believed he had fully discovered his capacities.

"You just keep going," he said to me. "You keep trying to get right down to the Crux."

He was one of the gentlest people I've known. I never heard him say anything malicious about anyone, even when, earlier in his career he was hurt when reading critics who, not listening as deeply as he played, attacked him for being too avant-garde.

John was also a patient man. Whenever I’d call to get him to talk about a new recording of his for which I was doing the liner notes, he'd always say, "I'd rather not use words for my music. If the music doesn't speak for itself, words won't help."

And just as invariably, I'd answer, "But John, I have this gig."

He'd sigh and say, "OK, what do you want to know?"

Years ago, when John was beginning to be recognized as a true original, a musician, Zita Carno, described the qualities of his character and musicianship that also accurately applied to the rest, or his work:

"No matter how well you may think you know what he's doing, he will always surprise you .... His command of the instrument is unbelievable .... The tone of his is an incredibly powerful, resonant, and sharply penetrating sound with a spine-chilling quality … Coltrane seems to have the power to pull listeners right out of their chairs."

But also, she noted, Coltrane is "very subtle ... his sense of form is another source of wonderment. He has few equals at building up a solo, especially on a blues."

Speaking about Coltrane to other musicians, I was often struck with how personally listeners interacted with his music, including people who had never actually seen him but had made him part of their lives through his recordings.

A few months after he died, I was at a black college in Delaware, and the students were especially interested in talking about Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman, and Coltrane.

"You know," one of them said, "when Trane died, it was like a great big hole had been left. And it's still there."

So too are the holes left by Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk. Whatever else is to come in jazz, we will never know anyone again like John Coltrane.

In J.C. Thomas' Chasin' The Trane, Frank Lowe, a musician, witness to the singular spirit-strength of this person who was his music, says, "John Coltrane helped keep me alive when I was in Vietnam. I heard him everywhere I traveled before I was shipped out. I brought some Coltrane records with me to Vietnam and listened to them constantly. His music was like life to me, and death was just down the road a few hundred yards away."

Jo Jones was a drummer who, other musicians said, "played like the wind." He was also a very perceptive man. He once pointed out that "jazz musicians express the types of persons they are, the experiences they've had during the day, during the night before, during their lives ... ". When a musician brings his experiences onto the bandstand, he projects his feelings amongst the audience, and that can have a strong effect because music, being such a medium as it is, can affect you all your life."

It's not an exaggeration to say that there are many people in many countries who have had their lives touched and deepened by the music of John Coltrane. I am one of them.

As bassist Art Davis said: "John had this power of communication, a power so rare it was like genius. I'll call him a prophet because he could communicate so lastingly."

In his book Ascension: John Coltrane And His Quest, Eric Nisenson spoke of the "special ways" Coltrane moved people:
" ... the emotions he evoked were of a unique intensity, and such feelings were directly connected to the great quest that was the center of his life. A man who studied all religions as well as Einstein's theory of relativity, Coltrane dared to try to discover through music a way toward what Stephen Hawking has called 'the mind of God' for modern man. That quest was not just pretense on his part. Anyone with ears and heart and soul could hear and feel it."

The future of jazz has always depended on surprises-unexpected musicians with radical (though at first seemingly quixotic) questions to ask-questions they're eventually able to answer: Louis Armstrong on the scope and nature of the jazz solo, Duke Ellington on the nature of the black experience through his writings and his musicians, Charlie Parker on how to liberate the rhythmic and harmonic language of the music, and John Coltrane on just about every limitation of the jazz experience that came before him.

It is our fortune, and the fortune of those who follow us, that he left us his discoveries on such of his recordings as these.

– Nat Hentoff


John Coltrane
Atlantic Album Discography

A. Giant Steps – Atlantic 1311 (January 1960)

B. Coltrane Jazz – Atlantic 1354 (February 1961)

C. Favorite Things – Atlantic 1361 (March 1961)

D. Bags & Trane (with Milt Jackson) – Atlantic 1368 (December 1961)

E. Ole Coltrane – Atlantic 1373 (February 1962)

F. Coltrane Plays The Blues – Atlantic 1382 (July 1962)

G. Coltrane’s Sound – Atlantic 1419 (July 1964)

H. The Avant-Garde (with Don Cherry) – Atlantic 1451 (April 1966)

I. The Coltrane Legacy – Atlantic 1553 (April 1970)

J. Atlantic Takes – Atlantic 1668 (January 1975)

K. The Heavyweight Champion: The Complete Atlantic Recordings – Rhino 71984 (October 1995)

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