on February 3, 2003
John Coltrane was a monster of the tenor sax as early as 1955, when he first joined Miles Davis' band. An overachiever, Coltrane had a relentless and unvarying passion for practice, for improving his skills as an artist. As he progressed through his quite legendary career, he never ceased to amaze.
BLUE TRAIN (1957) is a classic; an album often heralded as one of the greatest records of the 1950s by fans and jazz educators alike. It gives the listener a very clear view of what made these musicians so great. You will notice things like Coltrane's (and pianist Kenny Drew's) tasteful and masterful usage of the blues scale in the chant-like title cut. Many musicians have the tendency to drive that scale into the ground when playing the blues. Not so here: these guys were well beyond that sort of thing. On Jerome Kern's "I'm Old Fashioned," you will hear Coltrane's (or was it Kenny Drew's?) ascending-stepwise reharmonization. The Lee Morgan and Curtis Fuller solos on "Locomotion" are a delight, but that's true of the entire album.
It is well known that the Coltrane composition "Giant Steps" (released in 1959) is a bear to play, to improvise on the changes. But, even here, Coltrane was writing tunes that could shake a few people up. "Moment's Notice" is one such tune. It has an ABAC structure (8 bars, 8 bars, 8 bars, 14 bars: a total of 38 bars for one time through)--hard enough to follow--along with a barrage of formidable chord changes. Some say the song got its name when Curtis Fuller asked, "You expect me to play these changes at a moment's notice?"
BLUE TRAIN is certainly deserving of being hailed as a "classic," a term grossly overused these days. Imagination or creativity doesn't always come in the form of extreme busyness, and if you give this album your full attention, it will offer riches galore. There is good reason why BLUE TRAIN is listed on many a jazz educator's essential recordings list: It IS essential. (Seeing that this reissue gives you all the bonus extras for just a few bucks more, I can't see going for the earlier one.)
on January 21, 2003
Is "Blue Train" my favorite John Coltrane album? No, it isn't. Is it still a classic? You bet. Here is a record that captures the essence of cool and exudes style and grace so effortlessly, the music almost seems to float on air. John and his band give nothing less than 100% throughout this album, and their superb playing helped shape up what is now known as probably the most familiar jazz record that isn't performed by Miles Davis. It's been a while since I've listened to this album, but having recently gotten the newly packaged edition, I've reintroduced myself to a "Blue Train" that actually improves over the original recording. For one, the remastered version presents the album the way it was meant to be heard: clean and crisp. The incredible title track and "Locomotion" benefit most from the remastering, and Coltrane's sax playing is even more commanding this time around. Also, we get alternative versions of 2 tracks: the better of the two is "Blue Train." On this version, Coltrane's playing differs quite significantly, but it works just as well. In addition, the disc has an enhanced portion for your PC where you can listen to retrospective interviews from engineer Rudy Van Gelder, as well as a brief black-and-white video where Coltrane is performing with Miles Davis onstage. So if you're new to Coltrane and are unsure which version of "Blue Train" to get, this baby is the one to pick up. The remastering provides a better sound, you get two bonus tracks, and there's a decent handful of extras to view/listen on your computer. "Blue Train" still holds up as a classic, and its remastering and repackaging are well deserved.
on February 15, 2000
In San Francisco there is a church of St. John Coltrane, they have weekly services, and they have a weekly radio show. Let me try to explain why I'm comfortable with the "St. John". What makes a saint? A saint performs miracles. Coltrane was fortunate in that when he performed his miracles a tape was rolling. For example, I consider his solo on "Blue Train" miraculous. Let me elucidate: I'm a saxophonist myself, and I can play a mean blues solo (not great, but mean), and I can listen to a great blues solo and while I could not have played the solo, I can imagine how it was played, and I recognize the player as a fellow mortal. But with some Trane solos, e.g. on "Blue Train", it's too much. I can't imagine how anyone could have played it, it's too fast, the energy level is too high, the lines are too perfect, the creativity is too great, it's giving expression to an emotion that is too deep. It simple doesn't seem possible that anyone could have played that solo. It is beyond comprehension, awe inspiring. A miracle? Check it out.
So, you might think, it's inaccessible, for the aficionado only. Nope. They released "Blue Train" as a 45! I heard it on the student union jukebox when I came to U.C. Berkeley. It is as accessible as it gets.
Jazz is ephemeral, everything has to be right for the best performances, and everything was perfect on this date. The players were all at the absolute top of their games, the tunes were great, the mood was right, it's a great record in every respect.
on March 14, 2009
Unquestionably one of the all-time best ever jazz recordings, and probably my favorite Coltrane album. Plenty has already been written here about the music ... this is jazz at it's best! If you just want some great tunes, and don't really care so much about some differences in recording quality, then don't hesitate to get this album today - you won't be disappointed!
The rest of this review is for those folks like me, who do notice subtle differences, and want the best possible sound quality:
Sadly, I have to proclaim my disappointment with this "remastered" release. I also own the 1997 CD release, which sounds significantly better. This new release is over-compressed, and has had a low-quality digital EQ boost in the treble, replacing the nuance and texture of Jones' excellent drumming with a homogenous sizzle - the cymbals have lost all semblance of realism. Blue Note should be ashamed for their mishandling of this historic recording, and especially for caving in to the over-compression fad which plagues the industry. I expect this sort of mindless mastering in bad pop recordings, not the greatest jazz of all time!
To some, this may come off as nitpicking, but I hope you'll excuse my negativity - to me it is disheartening to hear this sort of careless treatment of such treasured music, at the hands of professionals who surely know better.
Coltrane's beautiful music deserves a lot more care than this.
If you would like to own a better copy of this album, do yourself a favor and skip this edition - get the 1997 (20-bit "Super Bit-Map") CD instead. Your ears will thank you.
on April 7, 2011
There may be 75 (not 74) tracks in this set - see number 60 on the Amazon list. Also, there are many misspellings on the Amazon track list which I've tried to correct below. Here's my best effort to provide more information about the tracks on these CDs, (info shown: original release LP title, original release leader, recording date - followed by the tracks from this LP on these CDs):
I. Informal Jazz - Elmo Hope - 1956:
(Appears to be the complete original 4 track release (except #3 as noted).)
1. On It
2. Polka Dots And Moonbeams
3. Heusen - no idea what this track is from
II. Tenor Madness - Sonny Rolling - 1956
(The only track from the original release on which Coltrane appears.)
6. Tenor Madness
III. Tenor Conclave - Prestige All Stars - 1956
(Appears to be the complete original 4 track release.)
7. Tenor Conclave
8. Bob's Boys
9. Just You, Just Me
10. How deep Is The Ocean
IV. Mating Call - Tadd Dameron - 1956
(Appears to be the complete original 6 track release.)
13. Mating Call
14. On A Misty Night
16. Super Jet
V. Interplay for 2 Trumpets and 2 Tenors - John Coltrane - 1957
(Appears to be the complete original 4 track release.)
18. Soul Eyes
20. Light Blue
VI. Dig It! - Red Garland - 1957/58 OR Taylor's Wailers - 1957
VII. The Cats - Tommy Flanagan, John Coltrane, Kenny Burrell & Idrees Sulieman - 1957
(Appears to be 3 tracks from the original 5 track release.)
23. Tommy's Time
24. Minor Mishap
VIII. Dakar - John Coltrane - 1957
(Appears to be the complete original 6 track release.)
25. Witches Pit
26. Mary's Blues
27. Cat Walk
28. Route 4
30. Velvet Scene
IX. Mal/2 - Mal Waldron - 1957
(Appears to be 4 tracks from the original 7 track release.)
32. Don't Explain
33. Falling In Love With Love
34. J. M.'s Dream Doll
X. Coltrane - John Coltrane - 1957
(Appears to be 5 tracks from the original 6 track release.)
35. Chronic Blues
37. While My Lady Sleeps
38. Time Was
41. Violets For Your Furs
XI. The Last Trane - John Coltrane - 1957/58
(Appears to be 1 track from the original 4 track release.)
XII. Lush Life - John Coltrane - 1958
(Appears to be 4 tracks from the original 5 track release.)
40. I Hear A Rhapsody
(41. see above)
42. Trane's Slo Blues
43. Like Someone In Love
44. I Love You
XIII. Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane - 1957
(Appears to be 2 tracks from the original 6 track release.)
45. Monk's Mood - not sure where this track comes from
46. Trinkle, Tinkle
XIV. Blue Train - John Coltrane - 1957
(Appears to be 4 tracks from the original 5 track release.)
48. Moment's Notice
50. I'm Old Fashioned
51. Lazy Bird
XV. The Dealers AND/OR Wheelin' & Dealin' - Coltrane & Mal Waldron - 1957
(Original The Dealers had 4 tracks and Wheelin' & Dealin' had 6, with some identical tunes. So this is 6 of 10 original tracks.)
53. Things Ain't What They Used To Be
55. Robin's Nest
XVI. Traneing In - John Coltrane - 1957
(Appears to be the complete original 5 track release.)
58. Slow Dance
59. Soft Lights And Sweet Music
60. Traneing In
61. You Leave Me Breathless
62. Bass Blues
XVII. Soul Junction - The Red Garland Quintet - 1957
(Appears to be 2 tracks from the original 5 track release.)
63. Woody `n You
64. I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good
XVIII. All Mornin' Long - Red Garland - 1957
(Appears to be 2 tracks from the original 3 track release.)
65. They Can't Take That Away From Me
66. Our Delight
XIX. The Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall (?) - 1957
(Appears to be the complete original 9 track CD release.)
67. Monk's Mood
69. Crepuscule With Nellie
73. Sweet and Lovely
74. Blue Monk
75. Epistrophy (incomplete)
Wait a minute, I already own "The Ultimate Blue Train" so what is this CD supposed to be, Super-Ultimate?! Clearly with this reissue of John Coltrane's classic "Blue Train," the folks at Blue Note have returned to the mindset they had during the deletion-happy, series-slashing days of the late 1980s (when they reportedly deleted the majority of that year's jazz releases to make way for a then new Garth Brooks album). I am delighted that Rudy Van Gelder has been able to remaster one of the greatest sessions that he ever recorded, but that fact alone does not warrant another reissue. "The Ultimate Blue Train" was worth buying to replace the original CD -- it had remastered sound, two bonus tracks, and a multi-media component featuring rare photographs and more. It was what CDs were supposed to be! Yet another CD reissue of the same material that we all are supposed to buy again, that furthermore confuses potential new jazz buyers, is not! The only reason I give this CD four stars and not less is because this album contains some of the greatest jazz ever made. I love John Coltrane, but I hate manipulative marketing.
on June 1, 2010
I totally disagree with the prior review! The DVD-A format does NOT specify that content be Dolby 5.1. It is simply an extremely high bit rate format, that can be anything from 5.1 channels to simple (very high bit rate) two channel stereo. So, if you love this music, AND have a player that will play DVD-A (not many do), then buy this version immediately. It is a two channel stereo presentation at over 9Mb data rates which means it sounds EXACTLY like the original master tapes. It has all of the analog feel of the original master tapes, with none of the standard CD corruption. A must have if you love this music.
on February 2, 2002
Mention the name " Coltrane " in Jazz circles and you're bound to receive a response whose admiration borders on an almost religious style worship. Other than Miles there's simply no one in this remarkable field of Music that has obtained such an incredibly strong, passionate and loyal following as that of John Coltrane. While long considered to be the intellectuals ( I dislike that word but.... ) 'favorite son' in a style of music that is chock-full of 'thinking' musicians Coltrane simply possess a unique position, where virtually he alone resides, all the while composing music that eventually would lead him on a quest where his soulful playing obtained an artistic level that was not only incredibly personal but certainly sought a deeply spiritual meaning as well. And while I won't pretend to understand the almost religious fervor that some friends have for this artist I will state that I do have a great deal of respect for John Coltrane....for the man and the musician as well. And listening to " Blue Train " might help explain why this tenor saxophonist is regarded in such high esteem.
While long being regarded a 'searching' musician, Coltrane and bandmates recorded " Blue Train ", his only Blue Note release, on Sept. 15, 1957. Obviously being well-rehearsed, the title track, an eerie blues selection, is Lee Morgan's real chance to shine. After the intial melody Lee's trumpet makes an energetic statement, followed closely by Curtis Fuller on trombone, and everything here runs extremely 'Hot and Cool'. Plus after 10 odd minutes the listener may be already exhausted, to say nothing of in awe of this bands performance. Following up with " Moment's Notice ", my personal favorite, another fast-paced tune with solo's by Coltrane, Fuller, Morgan and even a bowed bass performance by Paul Chambers, and you'll be amazed at how 'happy' even Coltrane can sound when composing. The ballad " I'm Old-Fashioned ", the only selection not written by him, is a perenial favorite as well, played softly and gently it's a wonderful contrast to the energetic playing that fills up the rest of this remarkable cd. But than again.... I've always been preferential to Ballads anyway! Closing with " Lazy Bird " with a wonderful piano intro by Kenny Drew, and following with solos by Coltrane, Fuller and Paul Chambers ( again using the bow ) and with Lee Morgan ending this track while Coltrane and Curtis ride out the theme. Even I, with my 'tin ear' understood after my very first listen that what I was hearing was a disc filled with songs that were performed by musicians who were not only ultimately honest about their music but incredibly passionate as well. And while I wasn't ready to 'bow to the alter of Coltrane' just yet I was completely enthralled by my purchase.
All in all " Blue Train " is remarkable in the sense that while the music being performed here is extremely free in it's origins it never lose's that sense of control that many jazz cd's, at least for me, seem to be guilty of when letting musicians endlessly 'wander' when soloing. Everything here, individually and collectively, works simply due to the players musical maturity in relating with one another and in each participant understanding his part in these wonderful tracks. And while it's true that in later years Coltrane took his music to a level where I could not join him ( I'm still trying to get through 'A Love Supreme'! ) I do have this incredible disc, plus ' Ballads " and " Giant Steps " to remember not only a quintessential musician but also a man who sought truth and guidance through his music. At hindsight, perhaps my friend's adoration of this inspired tenor saxophonist aren't so completely misguided after all.
on February 19, 2000
I'm a 16-year old hip-hop head who's just begun to love jazz. Everytime I listen to John Coltrane's music I feel inspiration. When I get home from a long day at school I put "Blue Train" in my CD-player. Listening to it clears my mind. John Coltrane truly was one of the greatest musicians of all-time, and "Blue Train" truly deserves the title "classic". Jazz is not very popular among young people today, but everyone who says that jazz sucks should do like me and listen to this masterpiece. It surely will change their opinion on this wonderful genre.
on November 3, 2006
For me John Coltrane's best period was during his stint with Miles Davis, who was able to focus 'Trane's explosive impulses and make him not play so many notes, but instead the RIGHT notes. This album was recorded during that phase and it's Coltrane at his best. The songs are great and the solos memorable.
In the liner notes is a quote from a jazz musician-I forget who- who claimed that "'Trane made those other guys(the sidemen)look ridiculous. Like amateurs..." or something to that affect. The only thing ridiculous is that quote from my perspective. Lee Morgan plays with a fire and dexterity far beyond his 19 years. He doesn't allow himself to get caught up in a note-burning contest with Coltrane, but instead follows his own inner vision and plays beautifully. His understated opening salvo on the title cut is classic. 'Trane has just finished a fast, long and amazing solo and instead of trying to match it's intensity(an impossible task)Morgan goes for the less-is-more approach, softly hitting a few notes and stepping away from the mic for a pause. Then he repeats. If he didn't have the respect for JC that I know he had I would almost daresay that he was making fun of 'Trane's excess!
The rest of the players acquit themselves admirably as well. An essential album.