John Coltrane

The Prestige Recordings

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The 16 CDs in this compendium represent nearly everything that John Coltrane recorded for the Prestige label during a 32-month period between May 7, 1956, and December 26, 1958. What's missing are Coltrane's contributions to the mid-'50s Miles Davis band, which are on the equally exhaustive and highly recommended Davis Chronicle box set released in 1990. Otherwise, listeners are treated to the sessions that produced the seminal long-players Coltrane, Cattin' with Coltrane and Quinichette, Traneing In, Soultrane, Lush Life, Settin' the Pace, Standard Coltrane, Stardust, The Believer, Black Pearls, Bahia, and The Last Trane -- all of which highlight the artist as either a leader or co-leader. Not included in that list are an additional 19 albums that boast Coltrane's involvement as a support musician. The music is presented primarily in a chronological fashion -- commencing with a pair of May 1956 outings with pianist Elmo Hope and tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins. Wrapping things up are five tunes cut the day after Christmas of 1958 alongside trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. Coltrane's legend is ingrained in the grooves of such indispensable entries as "How Deep Is the Ocean?" flanked by tenor saxophonists Zoot Sims, Hank Mobley, and Al Cohn -- as originally heard on Tenor Conclave. There is also the Tadd Dameron-commanded "Soultrane" and the definitive "The Way You Look Tonight," during one of the many Mal Waldron confabs, plus "Undecided," sporting Red Garland at the helm. And who could forget the Great American Songbook selections "Lush Life," "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Lover," "Russian Lullaby," "Why Was I Born?," "Lover Come Back to Me," "Stardust," and "Time After Time"? Accompanying the music is a 32-page liner notes booklet. Inside are a historical essay from Doug Ramsey, a session-by-session breakdown by Carl Woideck (and the occasional notation from producer Orrin Keepnews), and several different cross-references of the contents. Overall, the audio quality is excellent throughout, especially considering that the original tapes were transferred during the infancy of digital audio technology. Since 1991, the majority of the music has been remastered and issued on the individual album titles with even more astonishing results.

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