|The Future is Now
by David Fujino January 2006
All the hype aside on these two CDs we get to hear the classic John Coltrane Quartet play at full strength, from the bandstand at the Half Note in New York City in 1965. This music was recorded from live radio broadcasts from the Half Note.
We hear Coltrane's legendary storming search on extended intense improvisations like "One Down, One Up" a milestone solo incorporating Coltrane's saxophone and musical vocabulary where a simple and suggestive rhythmic figure is now increasingly manipulated into a suite-like series of burning improvisations, and as we hear McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, and Jimmy Garrison, each of them stretching the bounds of form and ecstasy, we understand that this piece is very much about the whole group and that these band members have been together for four incredibly creative years.
Thanks to the miracle of sound recording, their inspired musical relationship is all here, caught live and in the moment.
"Afro Blue", a lilting 3/4 tune like "My Favorite Things" has pianist McCoy Tyner contributing a spiritually far-reaching and deeply felt and conceptualized solo, with Trane on soprano all brooding and spiraling, and dervish-like.
"Song of Praise" develops from a meditative and deep feel to a fleet tempoed series of solos from Coltrane, Tyner, then Coltrane, with Elvin Jones' precision drum phrases focused on the piece's musical and spiritual essence.
On these two CDs, filled with such velocity and ferocity, and such levels of thought, we marvel at so many ideas pouring out of the Coltrane quartet's urgent and organically changing music.
The closing piece, "My Favorite Things", another signature 3/4 soprano tune for Coltrane, receives a different introduction before cascading into the familiar sprung rhythm and trance melody, with astounding modal solos projecting from Tyner then later Coltrane. Near the end of this tune, we find Coltrane again, still examining and re-examining the rhythmic and tonal bits of the melody in a spirit of open-ended musical enquiry. Fantastic.
So: all hype aside we're able to hear one of the music's great musicians, and one of the music's important groups: lucky for us, these recordings exist.
And I should mention the evocative and explanatory writing by son Ravi Coltrane in the liner notes. It's another plus in this package of amazing and inspired Coltrane music.
As Ravi Coltrane writes in the liner notes about his father and this specific group in 1965: "The music was really one foot in the future."