Articles: Coltrane Still On Top For Jazz Lovers




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It may be surprising to some, but to others, it's just as it should be. Thirty-eight years after his death, saxophone trailblazer John Coltrane has accounted for two of the top jazz albums of the year.

Coltrane's two-CD set "One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note," released by Impulse!, entered at No. 3 on Billboard's top jazz albums chart for the week of Oct. 29, and Blue Note's recently released album by the Thelonious Monk Quartet with Coltrane, "At Carnegie Hall," released at number two for the same week.

Neither collection has ever been officially released before, but the music on the new Impulse! CD has been a well known tape bootleg that Coltrane aficionados have been passing around for years. The much-loved sound was a steaming 1965 live set taped at New York's Half Note club with Trane's classic '60s quartet of McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones. When Coltrane's son Ravi recently unearthed a pristine copy of the tape made for the musician by DJ Alan Grant, it became the source material for the CD release.

The Monk/Coltrane Carnegie Hall collaboration album had never been heard before. A Voice of America tape of the long-lost 1957 concert was found in the Library of Congress' holdings by researcher Larry Appelbaum. The CD represents one of the few recordings of the brief union of the two jazz titans

High-quality unreleased material by Coltrane, who died of liver cancer in July 1967, has trickled out over the years. In 2002, Impulse! found and released the lone live recording of his masterpiece "A Love Supreme." In July 2005, Columbia/Legacy released a previously unheard 1956 concert by the Miles Davis quintet with Coltrane as part of a two-CD edition "Round About Midnight."

Ken Druker, vp of catalog development at Impulse!, says, "The (press coverage) involved in finding the Carnegie Hall tape drove it a little bit. Other than that, I think it is the legend. The (Coltrane) name seems to have magic to it. ... Aside from the magic of the name, there's the magic of the playing."

Coltrane is a breath of fresh air for jazz enthusiasts. Considering current fare at the top of the jazz charts is mostly tame and conservative, Coltrane's uncompromising music is an unexpected blast, wailing in a full-bore, free-blowing fashion.

Album annotator Ashley Kahn, author of a forthcoming history of the Impulse! label, "The House That Trane Built," maintains that listeners have finally caught up with Trane: "It's a very universal, accessible sound, even though he's one of those guys who was very intense, and devoted to experimental, avant-garde sound."

But the current spate of interest in Coltrane could go on for quite some time. It seems the musician's family has recently uncovered even more unheard material that Coltrane stashed around his house and elsewhere and never told anyone about. Kahn says: "There's a whole bunch of tapes that even the record label didn't know about. There is going to be a lot more stuff."

And that means pure listening joy ahead for those who love jazz!

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