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Friday, June 29, 2018

CD Review: John Coltrane - Both Directions at Once. The Lost Album

John Coltrane (soprano/tenor); McCoy Tyner (piano); Jimmy Garrison (bass); Elvin Jones (drums).
(Reviewed by Lance).
Released today (June 29)*
There's been so much hype about this - even Sonny Rollins got in on the act saying "This is like finding a new room in the Great Pyramid" - I was almost afraid to play it, knowing that it couldn't be that wonderful and I felt I was setting myself up for the great letdown.
I was wrong!

A few words, possibly from the recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder, an unaccompanied phrase on soprano, and we're off to the races with all my worries left on the doorstep. Trane was on fire and only occasionally popped into the pet shop. 
"Titled" Untitled Original 11383 - Take 1 he swoops and soars, probes the outer limits. I've never been over keen on soprano saxes but I like what Trane's doing here. Tyner carries the torch, still burning brightly, hands it to Garrison who can bow his way around corners and does just that before switching to pizzicato.
Nature Boy, fairly straightforward by Coltrane's standards, has the great man on tenor, piano lays out whilst bass and drums put down some exotic, underlying rhythms giving Trane the framework to explore and develop the theme.
Another Untitled Original, this time it's 11386 - Take 1. Again on soprano and it's another hidden gem emerging 55 years on. Tyner superb and Elvin punctuating everything. Sometimes explosively, sometimes subtly but always appropriately.  Elvin and Garrison work so so well together - hear the interplay towards the track end.
Vilia. From Lehar's operetta The Merry Widow. What a strange choice although I've always maintained that if the player's good enough then so is the tune - Sonny Rollins once said something similar. It's a swinger, Trane's almost in Stan Getz mode and gives an indication for the inspiration behind the album's title - Both Directions at Once - for this is what we get. Coltrane remembering his roots and at the same time, looking to the future saying, this is where I've been, this is where I am  and this is where I'm going. This latter direction is demonstrated in this version of his oft-recorded Impressions. The sheets of sound may not have been fully unfolded but they are certainly out of the airing cupboard. 
Slow Blues does what it says on the tin and more. The opened tin has released the old 12 bar sequence into a brave, yet anguished, new world. The shackles are coming off, jump aboard the Freedom Train. Coltrane and Jones are driver and fireman, Tyner and Garrison First Class passengers.
One Up, One Down, a swinger to end all swingers. Anyone who hasn't listed this as the best previously unreleased album of the year could only be a banjo player.
The following day Coltrane was to go into the studio with singer Johnny Hartman where the singer and the Coltrane Quartet recorded possibly the greatest jazz vocal album ever whilst this album remained forgotten and gathering dust for 55 years!
Lance
*Available from June 29 on Impulse as:
a) Single CD.
b) Deluxe double CD with alternate takes.
c) 12" vinyl LP.

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