Disc of the day: 17-05-09

John Coltrane: Standard Coltrane (Prestige 0888072312210)
Standard Coltrane has always been viewed with the benefit of hindsight. Recorded in 1958 while Coltrane was still in the Miles Davis Quintet, it was first released in 1962 when Coltrane had become a major jazz force in his own right and every record company with unreleased tapes of him was keen to jump on the bandwagon.

So Robert Levin in the original liner notes can point out how here were revealing examples of how Coltrane was trying to burst out of the albeit lovely jazz room Miles’s band had become in order to explore the wilder world beyond. He points to how much more relaxed Miles’s rhythm team of Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb sound when trumpeter Wilbur Harden is soloing than when Coltrane is straining towards what will become his “sheets of sound” explorations.

All that may be true, but is probably a more striking distinction heard in 1962 than it is now. Certainly we can hear what Coltrane will become in some choruses here, though it must also be said there are many others when the saxophonist is giving vent to his lyrical ballad side. Levin is right that there might be a slightly schizophrenic nature to Coltrane’s playing here but maybe we have become more accustomed to a mixture of in and out playing, of jumpcuts and eclecticism in improvisations because of what has happened in jazz since the 1950s and ’60s.

There are four tracks here, all standard tunes but the first – Don’t Take Your Love From Me – is perhaps more obscure  than Spring Is Here, I’ll Get By and Invitation.

The latter is an opportunity to hear nearly ten minutes of the master working the tune, playing all those wonderful scales, arpeggios and patterns around it while never in fact departing very far from the melody – and all at a wonderfully relaxed and reflective tempo.

This is one of those RVG Remasters, beautifully recorded and now beautifully buffed up again by Rudy Van Gelder.

Categories: CD review

1 reply

  1. In case anyone is interested in the original issue of this release, it was the LP Prestige 7243. The tracks were recorded on July 11. When it was released more than four years after the session, there were two different color covers. I’m trying to trace down information on the colors. One cover was a black and white photo of Coltrane with a gold banner across the top with red letters that said “JOHN COLTRANE/Standard Coltrane.” The CD re-issues seem to follow this color scheme. I’m having difficulty find out what the other color cover was — and which came out first. Can anyone shed any light on this?

    Also some of the tracks from this session were released on “Bahia” (Prestige 7353) and “John Coltrane/Stardust” (Prestige 7268). Thanks.

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