Top positive review
12 people found this helpful
The best of the many Coltrane "Best Of" collections
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.