Friday, May 25, 2012

Favorite albums: Impressions by John Coltrane

Cover from my version,
the 80's reissue.
Impressions by John Coltrane
1963 - Impulse!

John Coltrane - tenor and soprano saxophone
Eric Dolphy - alto saxophone, bass clarinet
McCoy Tyner - piano
Jimmy Garrison - bass
Reggie Workman - bass
Elvin Jones - drums
Roy Haynes - drums

This record has become kind of a dark horse in recent years, due I think to its pieced-together nature-- the two tracks that form the bulk of the album are from the famous 1961 Village Vanguard recordings, and are included in the box set that was released early in the 2000's, stealing a lot of its thunder. But this selection of tunes is very special, and there's something to be said for experiencing the music the way it was by the many, many players who have lived with this record in the nearly 50 years since it came out.

Up 'Gainst The Wall is an extremely important track for drummers-- right up there with Miles' Billy Boy, with Philly Joe, or Pat Metheny's Turnaround with Jack Dejohnette, or Miles' Seven Steps To Heaven with Tony Williams, or... anyway, transcribing it is pretty much a rite of passage; I did mine straight off the LP, which I don't recommend. 

Impressions is of the style that Leonard Feather famously called "anti-jazz" at the time, referring to Chasin' The Trane from the Village Vanguard record; very open extended blowing basically on one chord, without piano accompaniment. Here they're playing over So What changes, with a bridge that goes up a half step, so it's not entirely formless, but the effect is the same. This used to be an extremely popular jam session tune, but doesn't seem to get played much any more. You also don't hear players going for this burnout type of thing much, do you?

India got hurt the most-- at least as far as my own listening was concerned-- by the release of the Vanguard box set, which included several competing versions. This one is still the best, and I've listened to it so many times it's like classical music to me. People need to make more music with too many cats blowing all at once.

After The Rain gets overshadowed by the blowing tracks, but is a tiny, impressionistic masterpiece in its own right.

Dear Old Stockholm is a bonus track on the newer reissues, but I've never heard it.

Some YouTube audio after the break:

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