John Coltrane

Impressions of Coltrane [DVD]

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This DVD originates from the Netherlands and contains a trio of television appearances featuring John Coltrane. Although presented completely out of chronological context, offered within is a set by the Kind of Blue-era Miles Davis Quintet -- of which Coltrane was a member -- and two John Coltrane Quartet confabs -- circa 1963 and 1961 respectively. The latter kicks off Impressions of Coltrane with the "classic" foursome of Coltrane (tenor sax/soprano sax), McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums). The source for Coltrane and company's guest shot is the Ralph J. Gleason-hosted public TV show Jazz Casual. The program was recorded November 1, 1963, at the KQED studios in San Francisco, CA, and was the only time the combo was caught before TV cameras in North America. As evidenced by the set list and reconfirmed by the performances, Coltrane had already begun to mix Eastern influences into his playing. The cover of "Afro Blue" and especially the Coltrane original "Impressions" are essential. From there viewers are whisked back to the rare Miles Davis Quintet's April 2, 1959, guest shot on CBS-TV's Robert Herridge Theater Show. Davis (flügelhorn/trumpet) is joined by Coltrane (tenor sax/alto sax), Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums). Plus, the "great quintet" is augmented further by Gil Evans (arranger/conductor) and his 15-piece orchestra. They run down Dave Brubeck's "The Duke," Ahmad Jamal's "New Rhumba," and Evans' own "Blues for Pablo." These numbers were probably familiar to the audience as they initially surfaced on Miles Ahead (1957). Ironically, the opener, "So What" -- a tune most folks didn't know at the time -- would become one of the best-known songs of the entire genre. It likewise is a primal example of Davis' and Evans' groundbreaking "modal" approach. The final two selections hail from West German TV on December 4, 1961. Coltrane is backed by Eric Dolphy (alto sax/flute), McCoy Tyner (piano), Reggie Workman (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums) on his own composition "Impressions" and an equally rousing workout of "My Favorite Things." Of all the contents, the latter is arguably the best in terms of both sonic and visual quality. Sadly, it is likewise incomplete. The additional reading of "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" from this show can be found on the highly recommended Jazz Icons: John Coltrane (2007) that boasts additional material from Düsseldorf, West Germany (March 28, 1960), and Comblain-La-Tour, Belgium (August 1, 1965). When coupled with Impressions of Coltrane (2007), modern consumers will have the majority of footage known to exist of John Coltrane as a bandleader.

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