John Coltrane - John Coltrane Live In '60, '61 & '65

Jazz Icons

Release date: September 4th, 2007

Recorded: Dusseldorf, Germany, March 28th 1960; Baden-Baden, Germany, December 4th 1961 and Comblain-La-Tour, Belgium, August 1st 1965

John Coltrane Live In '60, '61 & '65 cover


Dusseldorf, Germany, March 28th 1960

John Coltrane (tenor sax)
Wynton Kelly (piano)
Paul Chambers (bass)
Jimmy Cobb (drums)
Stan Getz (tenor sax – on "Moonlight In Vermont" and "Hackensack")
Oscar Peterson (piano – on "Hackensack")

Baden-Baden, Germany, December 4th 1961

John Coltrane (tenor sax)
Eric Dolphy (alto sax and flute)
McCoy Tyner (piano)
Reggie Workman (bass)
Elvin Jones (drums)

Comblain-La-Tour, Belgium, August 1st 1965

John Coltrane (tenor sax)
McCoy Tyner (piano)
Jimmy Garrison (bass)
Elvin Jones (drums)


Germany 1960: On Green Dolphin Street; Walkin'; The Theme; Autumn Leaves; Moonlight In Vermont
Germany 1961: My Favorite Things; Everytime We Say Gooodbye; Impressions
Belgium 1965: Vigil, Naima, My Favorite Things


From having to rely on snippets of John Coltrane in performance on YouTube, the Jazz Icons DVD "John Coltrane Live In '60, '61 & '65" overwhelms with three full length, beautifully restored sessions on video that give almost for the first time a true picture of the great man in performance.

Three distinct phases in John Coltrane's career are featured.

The Dusseldorf set from 1960 comes at the end of John Coltrane's five year involvement with Miles Davis, just as he was feeling the need to branch out and form his own group as leader. Norman Granz had booked Miles Davis, Stan Getz and Oscar Peterson to take part in a European tour called "Jazz Winners of 1960". As Miles Davis recalled in his autobiography*:

"Trane didn't want to make the European trip and was ready to move out before we left…… So when I saw Trane I told him……'if you want to quit then just quit , but why don't you do it after we get back from Europe?' If he had quit right then he would have really hung me up because nobody else knew the songs and this tour was real important. He decided to go with us but grumbled and complained and sat by himself all the time we were over there. He gave me notice that he would be leaving the group when we got home. But before he quit, I gave him that soprano saxophone….. and he started playing it. I could already hear the effect it would have on his tenor playing, how it would revolutionise it. I always joked with him that if he had stayed home and not come with us on that trip, he wouldn't have got that soprano saxophone……"

When the tour arrived at Dusseldorf and the 30 minute TV performance that forms the first part of this DVD, Miles Davis was unavailable (for reasons now lost in time). So what we have is a very disgruntled John Coltrane with the Miles Davis Quintet minus Miles Davis. Trane is clearly going through the motions, repressed, largely constrained, mainly uninvolved. The introduction of Stan Getz makes the concert even less real; the smooth sax player is if anything more expressive that Trane. Oscar Peterson, taking over on piano on the Thelonious Monk composition "Hackensack", does little to raise the standing of what is an historic but largely spiritless performance.

Contrast this with the Baden-Baden performance of 1961, the second strand of the DVD. John Coltrane is not only playing the soprano saxophone that Miles Davis had given him, he is producing with it that trademark flowing, challenging deconstruction of "My Favorite Things" that stands as one of the great achievements of jazz. In the intervening year, Trane had formed his own group and begun the long association with McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones that would last almost to the end of his career. A month before this concert, the band, supplemented by Eric Dolphy (on alto sax, bass clarinet and flute) had carried all before them in the now legendary Village Vanguard recordings.

And the Jazz Icons footage here does not disappoint. The transformation from his time at the end of the period with Miles Davis is complete. The three scintillating pieces are the work of a great musician testing the limits of his freedom and concluding that the constraints of the past could be squarely consigned to history. McCoy Tyner is already on top of his game, stringing together those runs of left hand blocked chords against sparkling right hand runs. Eric Dolphy solos on flute on '"My Favorite Things" and features on alto on "Impressions". Between these two performances is a wonderfully restrained and beautiful reading of Cole Porter's "Everytime We Say Goodbye" by Trane on soprano sax.

Four years later in Belgium, Eric Dolphy is no more (having died in summer 1964) and John Coltrane and his quartet are at the height their achievement and confidence. Indeed, it could be said that a considerable level of rightful anger has entered the music. There is none of the pretence that had been present in the 1960 session. Even the pyrotechnics of the 1961 session have been surpassed and the music is somehow a summation of a radical call for change. The Civil Rights Movement was at a crucial stage. In March 1965, Dr Martin Luther King had attempted to march from Selma to Montogomery, Alabama, only for the marchers to meet a brutal response from police and local mobs, events that would be seen to be a turning point in this struggle.

So when Trane opens the Belgium concert with "Vigil", there is no question of compromise; this is how it is, this is how it must be, this is how the blues project of the transcendence of oppression must work itself through. John Coltrane had first released the song just three weeks earlier on the album "Kulu Se Mama". On tenor sax, Trane is finding all those unsettling overtones as if to cut through the layers of pretense and lack of understanding that need to be cleared away.

This is an outdoor concert on a very cold day. The largely white audience sit watching muffled in coats. The Quartet are in dress suits and ties. On stage, Elvin Jones is burning up on the drums, so much so that you can see the steam rising, just as you can see the breath exhaled by Jimmy Garrison and McCoy Tyner. This is extraordinary, powerful, once in a lifetime music, one of those points beyond which all music would be judged, and, as has been noted, the beginning of a radical approach in popular music that would last for the next thirty years.

When John Coltrane breaks into "Naima", there is hope of respite in this most beautiful and reflective of his compositions, yet this sense of ease does not last for long as the centre of the performance gives way to a further breakout of intensity.

By comparison, the closing "My Favorite Things" on soprano sax could be said to be almost conventional, perhaps because we now expect much of what we see and hear. Even so, it is tremendous to be able to see McCoy Tyner's brilliant technique on his extended piano solo and, of course, the genius of Trane's playing on soprano saxophone as the piece builds to a bone crunching finale that is just a million miles away from "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens….."

This is an inspiring collection of footage from three phases of John Coltrane's career, showing not just the magnitude of his personal growth as a musician but the growth in awareness of how music can address the most important and difficult of concerns.

Star Rating *****

*"Miles - The Autobiography" by Miles Davis with Quincey Troupe
Miles - The Autobiography thumb

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

To preview and purchase " John Coltrane Live In '60, '61 & '65" at amazon:

John Coltrane Live In '60, '61 & '65 thumb


RETURN TO: Main Page

Add to Technorati Favorites

Add a link to this site

free web page counters

No comments: