The Definitive John Coltrane

John Coltrane

Concord Music Group, 2010

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


The Concord Music Group has assembled a new music series. Jazz giants John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and Sonny Rollins’ classic material from the ‘50s is being resurrected and reissued as two-discsets. These best of or definitive compilations are wonderful introductions to not only these legendary artists but to an era of American jazz as well.

John Coltrane had a short but brilliant career. He first entered a recording studio during the mid-‘40s, but it was his work for the Prestige and Riverside labels that pushed him to the forefront of jazz musicians and cemented his reputation as one of the premier sax players in American music history. During this time period, he played with such greats as Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Art Chambers, Kenny Burrell, and Red Garland.

my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Definitive John Coltrane gathers material beginning in 1955 with his work for the New Miles Davis Quintet, continues with tracks from his Prestige label recordings, and concludes with some of his releases for the Riverside Label. The 21 tracks cover a four year period from the mid-‘50s. The enclosed booklet is excellent with a nice personal biography plus a history of each recording. The tracks are presented in chronological order, which allows the listener to follow the progression and evolution of his style.

During the latter part of his career, Coltrane entered the studio with some preconceived ideas. During his time with Riverside, and particularly Prestige, he participated in long jams that allowed his genius to flow unhindered. This release is emblematic of that style, and such creations as “While My Lady Sleeps,” “Lush Life,” and “I Want To Talk About You” remain fresh and enduring over a half century later.

His early work with Miles Davis is represented by three tracks taken from different albums. Coltrane is the ultimate sideman on these tracks as he weaves his signature sound into the melodies and takes a number of tasty solos.

After a short spell supporting Thelonious Monk during 1957, which is represented by two tracks here, Coltrane assumed the role of band leader and begin to issue his own albums. His own “Straight Street gives notice of his emergence as a composer of note. Meanwhile, his interpretation of Charlie Parker’s “Billie’s Bounce” remains fresh over fifty years later.  

He transforms a number of traditional pop and show tunes into jazz classics. Johnny Mercer’s “Come Rain Or Come Shine,” Irvin Berlin’s “Russian Lullaby,” “Cole Porter’s “I Love You,” and the Cahn/Stine standard “Time After Time” all succumb to his brilliant arrangements and improvisational style.

The Definitive John Coltrane is an effective sampling of the early career of a jazz legend. It is nice to have so many classic treats in one place.

Rating: A-

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