This two-disc live set, aimed at the curious newcomer to Coltrane's music, couples such accessible Coltrane classics as "Mr. PC" and "Body and Soul" with the sophisticated "Impressions." We find "My Favorite Things," the key to Coltrane's modal pursuits, alongside "A Love Supreme," one of his most challenging and adventurous pieces. Completists will want THE MASTERS for its value as live documentation, but the liner notes were not written with the hardcore Trane-head in mind. Not only are the dates and locations of these performances undocumented, but the musicians themselves are uncredited.
The "A Love Supreme" group--probably Elvin Jones on drums, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Coltrane on tenor and soprano sax--emotes at a fever-pitch. "Part 2: Resolution" soars, the pianist pounding as percussively as a drummer, and Coltrane, when not gliding through the meditative post-bob melody, wailing in the high range. It's more difficult to determine the personnel on disc two, but the likeliest addition is flautist/saxophonist Eric Dolphy. The sound quality is reasonably good, the renditions are up to Coltrane's standards of perfection, and THE MASTERS captures the oblique yet strong spirituality of his music's pounding, pulsing heart.