Charly's live John Coltrane recordings from '61, '63, and '65 reveal just how much the tenor and soprano saxophonist's playing changed in the first half of the decade: a sonic shift from aggressive tonality to unfettered exploration. While the 1965 disc, Live In Paris, does find Coltrane covering familiar song territory with "Naima," "Impressions," and "Afro Blue," it also shows him dismissing solo structure in favor of volcanic flights. The record features the saxophonist's classic quartet of pianist McCoy Tyner, drummer Elvin Jones, and bassist Jimmy Garrison recorded at the Antibes festival and the Selel Pleyel in Paris; these concerts were not only part of Coltrane's last European tour, but would also mark the beginning of the end for the group (Tyner and Jones, traditionalists at heart, would soon depart in the face of their boss' increasing need for freedom, being replaced by Alice Coltrane and Rahsied Ali respectively). Along with a satisfying version of "Impressions," The Antibes' recordings also include a stellar rendition of "Naima," with Coltrane delivering one of his most beautiful and emotionally bare solos. From the Paris material comes the only recording of "Blue Valse," a spiritually charged original that spotlights Tyner and Garrison; for his part, Coltrane delivers a frenetic and pleading excavation of the tenor's upper register. After a relatively subdued version of "Afro Blue" featuring Coltrane on soprano, the set ends with a second reading of "Impressions." Throughout the disc, Tyner demonstrates his wide-ranging keyboard approach, playing brooding, block chords on the first rendition of "Impressions," while turning in a fleet and kaleidoscopic solo on the second. Jones is typically galvanizing and intuitive behind the kit, with Garrison's bass unfortunately being inaudible most of the time (a common occurrence on many live quartet recordings). This disc provides a valuable document of Coltrane's playing during a fertile and protean period (one of many). With its, at times, rough sound quality and sprawling performances, though, Live In Paris is best suited for those familiar with the saxophonist's catalog. Newcomers should first check out Coltrane's earlier studio recordings on Impulse and Atlantic.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook