Previously Unreleased John Coltrane - Jazzmessengers blog
NEW AND UNRELEASED JOHN COLTRANE A short overview of a great musician’s career in seven significant recent releases.
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-15605,single-format-standard,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,side_menu_slide_from_right,qode-child-theme-ver-1.0.0,qode-theme-ver-16.8,qode-theme-bridge,disabled_footer_top,qode_header_in_grid,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.5.2,vc_responsive

Previously Unreleased John Coltrane

Previously Unreleased John Coltrane

A short overview of a great musician’s career in seven significant recent releases.

As a towering musical figure of the 20th century and, certainly, of the most influencing within the jazz world, anything new and unknown of to date, coming out from John Coltrane raises eyebrows followed by great expectations. During these past recent years we’ve had a series of magnificent albums coming out which added an even more comprehensive view on a musician that reset the parameters of jazz, especially during his decade as a leader. Here is a selection of some or the, arguably, most significant:


Coltrane ’58. A lot have been written about Coltrane’s development of his unique “sheets of sound” approach during the hotbed year of 1958 and these 37 tracks, predominantly standards, blues, and ballads, which have been released before on such earlier, pre-iconoclast recordings as Black Pearls, Soultrane, Bahia, and Setting The Pace, (Prestige, 1958) never been put chronologically curated as they are presented here on Coltrane ’58: The Prestige Recordings. In this form are a more revelatory collection following Coltrane primarily as a sideman, lending his emerging soulful, searching sound to sessions led by such bop comrades and confidantes as pianist Red Garland, trumpeters Donald Byrd and Freddie Hubbard, guitarist Kenny Burrell, bassist Paul Chambers and drummers Jimmy Cobb and Art Taylor, just to name a few.


‘Live’ At The Village Vanguard. This engagement is legendary, both for the quality of the music and for the controversy as it generated much turmoil among both critics and audience alike with its challenging music. Although not new, this particular edition has been out of print for many years and we should celebrate it is back on print. It includes two bonus tracks from the session which were not included on the original LP edition. Here we can really see ‘Trane’ leading a great band and displaying the qualities which made him the most exciting player of the 60’s with the creatively liberating influences of Eric Dolphy, McCoy Tyner, Reggie Workman, Jimmy Garrison and with an Elvin Jones constantly helping Coltrane to build intensity with a wide range of dynamics, particularly on the famous version of Chasin’ The Trane.

1963 – New Directions. 1963 came to be regarded as a point of transition between Coltrane’s previous jazz masterpieces and the genre-expanding music he went on to create. After 1963 he would never score another popular hit, as he had with “My Favorite Things,” and as his music became more personally internal and atmospherically external he would change bands and wives, lose an audience, and challenge norms of what constitutes jazz.
The tracks gathered on 1963: New Directions are in chronological sequence -including multiple takes- the first being Coltrane with pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Elvin Jones recording, on March 6, 1963, what would become The Lost Album. The next day, the quartet recorded classy standards with singer Johnny Hartman for the album John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, Trane’s label successfully positioning him as a middle-of-the-road, swinging balladeer. Never one to be dictated to by his label or producer Bob Thiele, Coltrane then upended any notions of tranquility with two blistering and beautiful live albums recorded that year, Newport ’63 and Live at Birdland. Tracks from Dear Old Stockholm, half of which was also recorded in 1963, show the quartet swinging hard in a structurally more cerebral setting, with drummer Roy Haynes replacing Elvin Jones.

Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album. This music was thought lost for many years until recently found. In the early ’60s, Trane was playing increasingly adventurous music on-stage while trying to balance with his label, Impulse!, desire to record marketable albums. Whenever he could, producer Bob Thiele would capture Coltrane working out new music with pianist McCoy Tyner, drummer Elvin Jones, and bassist Jimmy Garrison. One of these sessions happened at Rudy Van Gelder’s New Jersey studio on March 6, 1963, when Coltrane’s quartet was in the thick of a residency at New York’s Birdland and just before they were scheduled to cut an album with vocalist Johnny Hartman. This session sat on the shelf for decades, eventually getting ditched when the label decided to clear out its vaults in the 1970s. Coltrane’s reference tape survived, eventually unearthed by his family and assembled for release as Both Directions at Once. Throughout the recordings, the quartet is stretching and testing itself, inching ever closer to the exploratory sound that would define Coltrane’s latter albums evidencing how the musician was at a bit of a crossroads in the early ’60s.

Blue World. Previously unreleased it consists of music the saxophonist recorded with his classic quartet for a Canadian film drama. Recorded, as well, at New Jersey’s Van Gelder Studios, the 37-minute session was made at the request of Canadian filmmaker Gilles Groulx, who had asked Coltrane to soundtrack his film Le Chat Dans le Sac. The music also stands out among many other official Coltrane Impulse! dates because typically the saxophonist used his studio visits to document new pieces, but Blue World consists of new takes of pieces he’d recorded before but infused and sprinkled with his creative phase at the time. These pieces include the classic ballad “Naima,” which debuted on 1960’s Giant Steps; “Village Blues” and “Like Sonny,” from 1961’s Coltrane Jazz; and “Traneing In” from 1958’s John Coltrane With the Red Garland Trio. The title track employs the chord changes from “Out of This World,” a Harold Arlen song that Coltrane had recorded for 1962’s Coltrane.


A Love Supreme – The Complete Masters. One of the most important records ever made, John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme was his pinnacle studio outing, that at once compiled all of the innovations from his past, spoke to the current of deep spirituality that liberated him from addictions to drugs and alcohol, and glimpsed at the future innovations of his final two and a half years. This exhaustive set available on Cd and LP gathers every scrap of material recorded during the Love Supreme sessions as well as a live performance of the suite from later the same year. With all this material you get a clearer sense than ever before of the different forms A Love Supreme might have taken, and how Coltrane’s desire to communicate something specific and profound led to its final shape. It conveys much without overstatement and it is almost impossible to imagine any jazz collection without it. In his mind, God had saved him, and he was going to give back. Composed of four parts, each has a thematic progression. “Acknowledgement” is the awakening to a spiritual life from the darkness of the world; it trails off with the saxophonist chanting the suite’s title. “Resolution” is an amazingly beautiful, somewhat turbulent segment. It portrays the dedication required for discovery on the path toward spiritual understanding. “Pursuance” searches deeply for that experience, while “Psalm” portrays that discovery and the realization of enlightenment with humility. A Love Supreme was his expression of gratitude, a hopeful prayer for a better world.

Offering – Live at Temple University. Eight months before he died, John Coltrane played a gig at Temple University. It was recorded by the radio station but had only been heard in partial, poor-quality bootlegs until this it was polished up and issued for this set, the first official, complete, and fully mastered version. This ensemble here seems to have codified the spiritually infused free jazz, modal, and Indian raga influences Coltrane had been exploring since the early ’60s. Gone was the internal band discord over the use of two drummers (Tyner and Jones’ purported bugaboo), replaced by an ensemble of like-minded musicians unified as much by spiritual concerns as creative ones. This music is emblematic of the efflorescent energies and radical ideas that Coltrane himself had much to do with bringing forth during the seven years after 1960, when he left the employ of Miles Davis to pursue his vision as a leader.
Ultimately, though we will never know where Coltrane would have taken his music had he lived, Offering works as a live culmination of Coltrane’s musical journey, a homecoming and spiritual communion with the deep, creative forces that drove him right until the end of his life and, based on the music here, one can only assume beyond.