Release date: October 2005
The second significant John Coltrane release in as many months (see also Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane "At Carnegie Hall"), "One Down, One Up" presents previously unheard material recorded at the "Half Note" club in 1965. The occasion was a broadcast for radio in what was then the new fangled invention of stereo, the event captured in two 45 minute slots to be broadcast in two weekly programmes.
This produces the only downside of the recording; the second of the two pieces for each programme is just faded out as the 45 minutes running time of the radio programme is completed, leaving half finished versions of 'Afro Blue" and "My Favorite Things". But this is the only downside.
What we have is the classic Coltrane Quartet (John Coltrane on tenor and soprano saxes, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums) at the height of its powers, recorded in good, clear quality stereo. The title piece, running to some twenty-seven and half minutes, is a seldom heard masterpiece which is really just one long Coltrane solo with stabbing interventions from McCoy Tyner, blistering, brutal yet as ever articulate drumming from Elvin Jones (as throughout the session) and dark, underpinning bass from Jimmy Garrison.
It is music that is just on the edge of the cross over into free form that Coltrane would take within a few months of this date, all the more powerful for remaining on this side of harmonic and melodic intelligibility. "Afro Blue" gives more space for McCoy Tyner to stretch out which he does with finesse and ingenuity. "Song of Praise" (to be heard in another version on the Impulse! album "The John Coltrane Quartet Plays") continues to build up the pressure and tension almost to breaking point as McCoy Tyner's seemingly ever ascending chopped piano chords struggle for recognition beneath John Coltrane's epic improvisation while all the time Elvin Jones' brutal punctuation underscores the whole.
And finally, switching to soprano sax, we have what now sounds like a fairly conventional destruction and reinvention of the once sweet and simpistic sounding "My Favorite Things" to round off a marvelous nintety minutes of high adrenalin jazz.
Unthinkable that a modern radio audience would be trusted with anything as significant.
Related reviews: John Coltrane "The Heavyweight Champion" John Coltrane "The Classic Quartet" Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane "At Carnegie Hall" John Coltrane "Live At The Village Vanguard"
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