John Coltrane

Standards

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Every five years since 1986, the corporate custodians of Impulse! have served up batches of Coltrane reissues and unreleased tapes to commemorate a birthday ending in "0" or "5." In the year 2001, which would have been Coltrane's 75th birthday, current label owner Vivendi Universal delivered four single CDs, three of which serve tourists who want to get on the 'Trane for the first time. Standards is probably the least eventful of the lot, offering no unreleased material or particularly enticing packaging. But you won't get shortchanged by the music, which takes us from the first galvanic Impulse! album Africa/Brass ("Greensleeves") through the run of projects by Coltrane's classic quartet of the first half of the '60s (McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones). The tour makes stops at the Village Vanguard for a driving "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise," at Birdland for "I Want to Talk About You," a studio date with the dark-honeyed baritone of Johnny Hartman caressing "Lush Life" and "Autumn Serenade." You won't find any examples of the wilder, atonal Coltrane beyond 1965 -- which is just as well since there aren't too many standards to choose from. As a program of Coltrane music, this one plays pretty well, mixing up the tempos and meters astutely. Yet you wonder how representative an album labeled "standards" can be that doesn't include the most famous Coltrane-covered standard of all, "My Favorite Things," among other things.

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