Release date: September 26th, 1962
Re-release date: February 19th, 2008
Availabilty: CD, MP3 download, iTunes
Bob Thiele (John Coltrane's producer at Impulse!) took seriously his project of arranging musical meetings between Duke Ellington and jazz greats and in addition to sessions with Louis Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins he also produced this session with John Coltrane.
As John Coltrane reflected, "I was really honored to have the opportunity of working with Duke. It was a wonderful experience."
Despite the difference in age and approach, a real rapport was clearly established that results in one of the most open and approachable albums of John Coltrane's career.
All but one of the compositions ("Big Nick" by John Coltrane) is from the Duke Ellington camp, with five tracks by Duke Ellington and one ("My Little Brown Book") by long time Ellington collaborator Billy Strayhorn. If there is anything that is surprising about the album it is just how good John Coltrane is with this material.
He had just assembled the personnel who would form the "great quartet" and they were already making waves. The basis of this music with Duke Ellington is conventional compared with what was to come. Yet the perspective introduced by John Coltrane's developing musical radicalism forms an almost perfect counterpoint and the music is restrained yet innovative, interesting and rewarding since it is situated just at that tipping point at which a new distinctive episode in jazz was about to emerge, here contrasted with what it was to go beyond.
It is also interesting to contrast Elvin Jones' drumming with that of Duke Ellington regular Aaron Bell as they each appear on approximately half of the tracks. The value of Elvin Jones' more modern, more polyrhythmic approach is evident.
Stand out tracks are "In a Sentimental Mood" for its sustained lyricism, "Take The Coltrane" and "Stevie" where Duke Ellington's piano is a fine foil for John Coltrane's bluesy playing and "Big Nick", destined to be a staple of 'great quartet' performances.
A very satisfying re-release that documents an important transition point in John Coltrane's career.
Related reviews: John Coltrane "The Heavyweight Champion" John Coltrane "The Classic Quartet" John Coltrane "One Down One Up" John Coltrane "Live At The Village Vanguard"
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