Trane's Impulse recordings rank among the most hallowed work in jazz history. So this 10-track collection really represents the very best; includes A Love Supreme: Part 1-Acknowledgement; Naima; Afro Blue; Lush Life; My Favorite Things; Crescent ; a previously unissued take of Impressions; In a Sentimental Mood; Bessie's Blues , and Alabama .
John Coltrane is a much-anthologized artist. He recorded primarily for three labels in his decade-long stay at the forefront of jazz, whose vaults have yielded numerous best-of recordings in recent years and now two very-bests to commemorate the 75th year of his birth. This collection is drawn from Coltrane's Impulse years, the early '60s when he was the most powerful and influential voice in jazz. The material dates from 1961 to 1964, omitting the more challenging later recordings and emphasizing the classic quartet formation with pianist McCoy Tyner, drummer Elvin Jones, and bassist Jimmy Garrison. It's a generous collection, with a running time of nearly 75 minutes, and every track is a gem. The highlights of his collaborations with Duke Ellington and singer Johnny Hartman, "In a Sentimental Mood" and "Lush Life," respectively, are here, as is a marvelous rendering of his own beautiful "Naima," recorded at the Village Vanguard in 1961 with Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet. While the famous studio version of "My Favorite Things" belongs to Atlantic, the live version here from the 1963 Newport Festival may well be the greatest of his numerous recordings of the tune. There's an ineffable quality in Coltrane's greatest work that's never been matched, a combination of magisterial creative authority combined with extraordinary tension and expressive depth. It's apparent everywhere here, but perhaps most intensely felt in pieces like "Alabama" and "Crescent," performances that reinvented lyricism in jazz.
For newcomers to Coltrane's music, this is an excellent introduction, comparable, and in some ways superior, to Ken Burns Jazz Collection: John Coltrane or the complementary The Very Best of John Coltrane on Rhino/Atlantic, covering the years 1959-61. While Coltrane aficionados are likely to have most of the material here--some of it multiple times--there's also something for them: a 4 minute 33 second version of "Impressions" that was inadvertently omitted from the eight-CD set of The Classic Quartet: The Complete Impulse Studio Recordings. The only known studio version of a tune that Coltrane reworked repeatedly and at length in live performance, here it's a taut vignette. --Stuart Broomer