Dec 27, 2012

Miles Davis Someday My Prince Will Come (1961)

1961's Someday My Prince Will Come is one of the underrated albums in the discography of Miles Davis.

A transitional album if there ever was one. John Coltrane appears on two tracks, the title track and the Epic "Teo", the latter being my personal favorite solo from Coltrane during the Davis era.

Someday My Prince Will Come is also known as the album where the usually stellar and underrated tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley is upstaged by Coltrane.

Indeed Mobley does seem over matched head to head, but Mobley pound for pound was a very capable melodic player, and it is unfair he is compared to Coltrane.

I must say, I believe Mobley was out of place with Davis, after all it took Miles 4 years to find Wayne Shorter after Coltrane left the band for good in 1960.

"Someday" leads off with the title track, taken from the 1937 film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  This track features solos by Coltrane and Mobley. Mobley doesn't embarrass him self, but next to Trane it's not fair.

Is Coltrane's Best Solo on "Teo"?

"Teo" is a droning modal track that Mobley sits out completely on. Coltrane just searches and searches the minor key, and plays with such an earnestness, that you get caught up with the Coltrane oratory.

You feel like a something extra is happening here, beyond your typical jazz saxophone solo.  The minor key adds to the exotic vibe, but Coltrane pleading his case to such an awesome extent really is breathtaking. 

I've also felt the vibe was very much in line with his masterpiece A Love Supreme, remarkable the probing style that he uses here.

One of the best .99 cent buys you'll ever make.




Dec 19, 2012

John Coltrane's Posthumously Released Masterpiece Interstellar Space: (1974)

Interstellar Space is a fascinating set of duet recordings between John Coltrane and drummer Rashied Ali that were released 7 years after Coltrane's death in 1974.

What really makes these recordings so valuable is Coltrane's modern technique on tenor, and Ali's drums for that matter. This is music that 45 years later still sound like it was recorded 100 years into the future.

Since I am not a saxophonist nor a drummer, I can only judge this music by the mood it evokes. Interstellar Space is easily one of the most stirring jazz recordings I have ever heard.

 Coltrane's playing is from another world, perhaps John was in touch with the forces that would soon claim him, as he would be gone but a few months later? I still have no idea how drummer Ali was able to go toe to toe on this music with Trane.

I get the feeling when listening to the sheer earnestness of the playing that Coltrane had no where else to go, I listen to this music, and I say, how could you advance this music beyond where you are? Could the tenor sax be pushed beyond this music?

Had Coltrane lived, it would have been interesting to see what he was playing during the 70's, would he have gone the rock fusion route? Imagine if Trane and Miles Davis got together on those Osaka Japan concerts from 1975? Maybe he could have played soprano in a fusion band?

I know guys like David Murray, Anthony Braxton, and David S. Ware have developed this style and reworked it inside out, but have they advanced it?

Is interstellar Space my favorite Trane album? Well,  I have really grown to love it over the years. I would say A love Supreme, Giant Steps, Ascension, and Africa Brass are my favorite Studio Albums along with Interstellar space. The Village Vanguard live sessions are right there as well, but nothing in all of Coltrane's discography quite sounds like this album.

Hyperbole aside, I realize there are those that just can't get past the atonal sounds and really couldn't grasp the "over blowing" as the detractors will say. Believe me, there is much more to this music than that, any saxophonist or drummer needs to hear this album, if only for the virtuoso playing.

When Interstellar Space was originally released in 1974, "Leo" and "Jupiter Variation" were not apart of the record. Those 2 tracks were released in 1978 as the album Jupiter Variation.

Personally I believe the 2000 CD release to be the best remastering I have heard, and all of the music is in one Place too.

I still think the vinyl has a warmer sound, especially Coltrane, but the bass drum from Ali is less Muddy and the overall sound is pretty crisp, I would say that 2000 CD and 74' vinyl is a push.

In closing, I truly believe this recording is one of Coltrane's masterpieces. I wonder if Rashied Ali had a sense of satisfaction that he matched wits with the master on his last great recording? That fact, that he did stand toe to toe with Trane is the real secret of Interstellar Space.



John Coltrane/ Alice Coltrane: Cosmic Music.

Cosmic Music is an album that is seriously overlooked in the Coltrane catalog, mainly because of the Alice Coltrane and John Coltrane divide of the album.

After all, we are talking about just over 20 minutes of John, and the other 14 minutes or so, his wife Alice's first 2 recordings laid to tape at Impulse.

I can't find anything wrong with the 2 Alice tracks, "Lord Help Me Be" and "The Sun" these tracks were issued as bonus tracks for her Impulse album Monastic Trio reissue.

 The 2 longer John Coltrane tracks are "Reverend King" and "Manifestation".

 These tracks were recorded right after the departure of McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones, and have the freer style. Drummer Rashied Ali is an all together different drummer than Elvin Jones, Ali's not as powerful, but he shades and accents in different ways, he is more subtle than Jones.

Alice is an underrated player, very bluesy, and I am talking about a stripped down Otis Spann piano Blues. Tyner was a Bud Powell disciple, I don't hear an ounce of Bud Powell in Alice's playing.

Sometimes I feel Jazz, and John Coltrane fans in particular have a Yoko Ono complex about Alice, (As if Alice broke up the classic quartet or something?)

 Many denigrate her work with Impulse and Warner Brothers, this is unfortunate of course, as every damn one of her impulses, and most of the other Warner Brothers albums are not only worth a listen, a few are stone classics....see Ptah The El Daoud and Joe Henderson's The Elements for proof. She basically invented the sub-genre of astral jazz.

Alice's brand of astral jazz, or space jazz if you will, is a unique sound, that combines many
Eastern styles along with blues and African music. The 2 John Coltrane tracks are a real forerunner to that style, a looser free jazz style with a Modal back drop.

The music is both relaxing and stirring at the same time. For me, that is a hallmark of the so called space/astral jazz.

 Tenor man Pharoah Sanders has made a living out of this style of music, Sanders also plays on Cosmic Music, He also delivers his first recorded piccolo solo on "Manifestation".

There has been plenty of confusion with the John Coltrane tracks on Cosmic Music: Rumors have persisted that these are abbreviated performance, and 15 to 20 minutes could be out there somewhere?

 I have a vinyl copy (pictured), and the entire length is only about 34 minutes, finally a new reissue is available with a tad cleaner sound, especially on bass, it's less muddy now.

 




Dec 18, 2012

John Coltrane: A Love Supreme (1965)

Volumes have been written about John Coltrane's religious inspired masterpiece A Love Supreme. Even more amazing how many records this actually sold, this is certainly not a smooth jazz record.

If someone new to jazz asks where to start with John Coltrane, A Love Supreme would NOT be it. Yet it is widely considered the second or third greatest recording in jazz history, right behind Miles Davis and his 1959 masterpiece Kind of Blue.

I remember the first time I was exposed to this glorious music, it was the first movement "Acknowledgement" and it was on the Ken Burns Jazz John Coltrane Sampler, I had been exposed to Miles Davis earlier in mid 90's.

I did not develop a serious love for the jazz until after that year 2000 Burns documentary. As flawed as Burns' warped view of jazz was, I do owe him a debt for setting up a preamble of jazz history for me. I had to go out and find the avant-garde and jazz rock on my own.

After that Burn's documentary I was hooked, and have devoured the music inside and out, almost all styles and genres, with nothing taboo for me, a shame Burns didn't do a better job including all of the jazz styles after 1960.

I am fortunate, early on I acquired the taste for free jazz and the avant-garde, A Love Supreme skirts the boundaries of this style to virgin ears, but to seasoned ears, it's an earnest and melodic piece that can inspire you.

A Love Supreme is only 33 minutes long, but seems to be the perfect length, not a wasted note in sight. As mentioned, Coltrane really pushes the free jazz envelope with his tone in spots, never goes across that line though.

That Ken Burns Coltrane sampler really is heck of a CD, "Chaisin' the Trane is on there too, from the Live Village Vanguard album. I wore that disc out that first few months.  In fact they did a killer job on most of those samplers.

 Some newbies might get turned off at the intonation on A Love Supreme, and a few times his note embellishments are over blown, this might make a swing era aficionado cringe. If you dig it, you might be ready for Free Jazz in general.

A love Supreme begins with the now famous "ringing gong shot" then saxophone fan fare, then settles into a basic 4 note modal bass groove, a love su preme, a love su preme, etc... then Trane himself recites the mantra "A Love Supreme".

"Resolution," which is my favorite track, starts with a Jimmy Garrison setting the tone, then Coltrane explodes into the track, I still get the same thrill each time hearing the startling way Coltrane enters Resolution. The soloing on Resolution reminds me of the soloing on Coltrane's 1960 masterpiece Giant Steps, especially tracks like "Cousin Mary" and Mr.P.C.

The third movement, "Pursuance" starts with a small drum solo from Elvin Jones, and then a pretty spirited ride from the quartet. Then Jimmy Garrison offers a nice varied bass solo leading up to the final movement of the suite.

"Psalm" is a recitation by Trane of a wordless poem he wrote to honor God.

When you consider that by 1970, A Love Supreme had sold more than 500,000 copies, about 20 times the usual total for a Coltrane album, speaks awfully loud for what this album meant to the general public.

 Even more amazing to me about that high sales total, this music is not like Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, which is an easy listening sort of a modern jazz album. I mean

 A Love Supreme is not easy listening at all, it is challenging, and demands your attention, again, not easily understood for some one not used to atonal sounds.

 I think the length of the suite is perfect, you never feel it's too long or monotonous, it really is the perfect modern jazz album.

A Love Supreme sold 500,000 records by 1970. An album that skirts the edges of free jazz, and certainly is not as easy to digest,

The album has long since gained multi platinum  status, if you ever wondered about the supernatural element of the music, the fact that an album so non commercial could sell this well, seems most astounding to me, surely an act of God.

To say A Love Supreme belongs in every modern jazz collection is an obvious statement.
Go get it today.

Dec 15, 2012

Caldera: The Best Fusion Band you Never Hear About.

The best way to describe Caldera is to Take equal parts of Weather Report and Return to Forever, and then add a heavy dose of authentic Latin funk.

 In Fact, next to Caldera, Weather Report seems overrated, especially the more commercial oriented late 70's early 80's version of that band.

I also thought that Weather Report's "funk" could be dry and lifeless, even with Jaco Pastorious' chops on bass. For some reason the later WR just seemed like lite jazz to me.

Caldera only had 4 albums from 76'to 79', the self titled debut, Sky Islands, Time and Chance and Dreamer, but nothing light weight about the Latin fire that melds with the Return to Forever like chops.

I think Santana mixed with RTF would be another apt description of Caldera, just a touch of Earth Wind and Fire shows up now and then as well.

All four of the albums are worth owning, each building on the last, and never watering down the latin jazz funk fusion.

Unfortunately in their day, Caldera never hit the big time, even today most of the catalog is is unreleased on CD, and only a few imports show up in the secondary market at extreme prices on Amazon.com

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