John Coltrane's week at the Village Vanguard in 1961 resulted in a total of 22 recorded versions of nine songs, all of which have been released in the four-CD box The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings. This 1998 single CD has the five performances that the great saxophonist had agreed to have released during his lifetime: three numbers from the original Live at the Village Vanguard LP ("Spiritual," "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise," and "Chasin' the Trane") and two songs that appeared on Impressions (the title cut and "India"). Although branded as "anti-jazz" by John S. Wilson (an attack that was seconded by Leonard Feather), the music is actually quite coherent and would even be thought of as moderately conservative today, particularly "Spiritual" and the boppish rendition of "Softly." Coltrane does stretch out quite a bit on the raging "Chasin' the Trane" and "Impressions," but compared to what he would be playing in 1965, this should not scare anyone away. Obviously this CD (which also has Eric Dolphy's bass clarinet on two songs, pianist McCoy Tyner, Reggie Workman and/or Jimmy Garrison on bass, and drummer Elvin Jones) is primarily recommended to listeners not wanting to invest in the more complete box.
Live at the Village Vanguard: The Master Takes Review
by Scott Yanow