Customer Reviews: Very Best of John Coltrane
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on May 25, 2003
It is an exercise in futility to attempt to bottle the career of John Coltrane into a 10-track "Best Of" collection (even at 75 minutes), but as exercises in futility go, this is as good as it gets. Actually it is a "best of" 1961-1964, his years on the Impulse label, and the quality and variety of this collection are incomparable. Coltrane was a master of both soprano and alto sax, and both are featured here. Most selections feature his famed quartet including McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. Also included are Duke Ellington playing piano on his own "In a Sentimental Mood", and Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet on "Naima", from the live Village Vanguard recordings. Every conceivable Coltrane mood is captured, from bluesy exuberance ("Bessie's Blues"), to tearless mourning ("Alabama"), mystical contemplation ("A Love Supreme - Acknowledgement"), and the late-night world-weariness of "Lush Life" (written by Ellington collaborator Billy Strayhorn and beautifully sung by Johnny Hartman in the quintessential performance of his career). There is also Coltrane's magnum opus, "Afro-Blue", ten minutes of some of the most inspired jazz ever recorded, both richly melodic and full of on-target improvisation. "My Favorite Things", Coltrane's most enduringly popular song, is also included here, but it is the Newport Jazz Festival version, which is longer (17 minutes), less focused and less effective than the definitive studio version (which was on Atlantic, and therefore could not be included in the Impulse collection). One senses that the quartet had already played this song too many times in the intervening three years to give it their best anymore. There is also "Impressions", a never-released treasure. John Coltrane's essential contribution to jazz, (make that "to music") was his ability to bring himself and his band into a place of transcendent being - of joy or of sorrow, without ever being overtly emotional. This is a state that cannot be attained through melody, arrangement or improvisation alone, but only through artistry, and that is why imitators of the Coltrane style can leave me cold. Coltrane wasn't style, he was genius.
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on August 16, 2001
Having almost every Impulse recording by Coltrane I hesitated to purchase this new compilation. But good sense prevailed and I'm oh so glad I now own this marvelous disc. With ten brillent selections, clocking in at almost 75 minutes, this is far and away the best single disc anthology of this titan of the tennor saxophone. What I like most is the broad range of material covered, from the sensitive and passionate ballards like "In A Sentimental Mood", (with Duke Elington), "Crescent" and Billy Strahorn's masterpiece "Lush Life" to the the famous sheets-of-sound of "Impressions", "Afro Blue" and "A Love Supreme".
In short, if like me, you own most of these recordings or you're looking for an introduction to the colossal talent that was John Coltrane, then look no further. This is the one for you.
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on October 30, 2005
Acknowledgement: The disc begins with Coltrane's most famous tune, the first movement of A Love Supreme. A repetitious bass motif is played around with by the saxophone until it is revealed to be a musical recitation of the title of the album. Who am I to criticise the most worshipped eight minutes in all of 1960s jazz? Yet I never loved "A Love Supreme". Oh well.

In A Sentimental Mood: In 1963 Coltrane recorded a moderately acclaimed album with his great predecessor Duke Ellington. This reading of one of Duke's most beloved melodies is considered by many a classic - (too?) romantic, slow and accessible; one for those who are not well-up with Coltrane's fiercer stuff

Bessie's Blues: This odd little number, short enough to fit on a 78, appeared in the album Crescent. By the time this was recorded, Coltrane's sound was increasingly harsh and uncompromising, yet this is a joyous romp through a simple and catchy blues dedicated to the famous blues singer.

Naima: A bizarre, obscure recording of one of Coltrane's most beloved themes. Unable to get their hands on the classic Atlantic version, Impulse has released this version recorded live at the Village Vanguard in 1961. At the time COltrane could not legally record this tune, due to conflict with his Atlantic contract. So the melody is inverted (actually the tune was notated in the log as "Amain", which is supposed to be "Naima" backwards). So sue me, I don't like the inverted version of the melody at all - try the Antibes performance of 1965 for a truly freaky experience.

Afro-Blue: This is one of Coltrane's famous soprano-waltz standards. Afro-Blue is an inspired choice of tune - it exactly suits Coltrane's far out whacked out soloing, which reaches a frenzy during his second solo. A classic performance.

Lush Life: Bah! Humbug!

Crescent: One of Coltrane's most famous albums began with this eponymous track. A theme that is sweeping and beautiful, backed up by ferocious soloing.

Impressions: In 1962 Coltrane recorded his one and only studio version of a tune that he played almost every night. The "classic" version of Impressions is the one on the eponymous album (recorded live); this version is one third the length, but still has ferocity and inspiration to spare. I wouldn't have thought it was possible to do a four minute version of "Impressions," but here it is. Coltrane never released it, so it is here for the first time in all its unapproved-by-the-artist glory...

Alabama: A beautiful theme accidentally butchered in the studio (see my review of the "Live at Birdland" disc). Yes, it's one of Trane's most famous compositions, but it's terrible that some idiot released a breakdown take (and presumably burnt the complete takes!)

My Favorite Things: Not the classic studio version, but a version that has received acclaim and near-literal worship. The 17-minute version of My Favorite Things, from the Newport Jazz Festival of 1963, contains enough energy to launch a space ship; or to ascend to heaven in a chariot of fire. The best legal version of Coltrane's most requested tune.
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on July 19, 2015
The product arrived yesterday (7/18), ahead of schedule and in great condition. It's good to have a mixed selection of tunes I already have on other CDs, this new compilation is like listening to the music afresh. I'm very happy with this music, especially the shortened version of 'Impressions.'
Thanks much! Regards, Keith
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on March 20, 2013
The man is a genius. The distinctive manner in which Coltrane plays is highlighted in these carefully chosen selections. This is a great introduction to Coltrane for someone who may not be familiar with his body of work.
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on February 21, 2004
Many "best of" CD's are lousy, but this CD is truly outstanding. You can make a case that this is the best jazz CD ever simply because of the superb selection of John Coltrane's best jazz during the prime mid-to-late years of his career. This CD is highly recommended by the "Penguin Guide to Jazz," which is very unusual for a "best of" CD.
Coltrane's albums are consistently rated among the greatest albums ever made, such as "Giant Steps" and "A Love Supreme." The song "My Favorite Things" gets my vote for "best jazz song ever." Coltrane should be heard by anyone even casually interested in jazz. This CD gives you a great collection of some of his best music.
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on April 20, 2013
Love the sound of some good jazz. Used to play the sax so I guess thats why I like jazz, and for the ambiance that you feel when you listen to this.
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on April 10, 2014
Soothing sounds from John Coltrane, especially the track with Duke Ellington. Classy music to add to collection to listen to forever.
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on April 2, 2013
Great addition to my collection of music which includes a wide variety of artists. This is the Jazz that's always appreciated
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HALL OF FAMEon September 25, 2001
for all the New John Coltrane Fans this is a Helluva Introduction it has all His Classics&it's a strong treat.compared to the first Coltrane Greatest Hits package I got this is like a Box-Set.His Tone&Vibe is Mind-Blowing from start to finish.He left a Mark that hasn't been filled can tell a Coltrane Run from anybody else's.One of a Kind Artist.
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