For his second long player, John Coltrane (tenor saxophone) joined forces with his Prestige labelmate Red Garland (piano) to command a quartet through a five song outing supported by a rhythm section of Paul Chambers (bass) and Art Taylor (drums). The absence of any unessential instrumentalists encourages a decidedly concerted focus from Coltrane, who plays with equal measures of confidence and freedom. The Coltrane original "Traneing In" is a rousing blues that exemplifies the musical singularity between Coltrane and Garland. Even though the pianist takes charge from the start, the structure of the arrangement permits the tenor to construct his solo seamlessly out of Garland's while incrementally increasing in intensity, yet never losing the song's underlying swinging bop. Chambers then gets in on the action with an effervescent run that quotes the seasonal favorite "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." The poignant "Slow Dance" is a dark ballad with a simple, refined tune that is established by Coltrane. He turns things over to Chambers, and then Garland -- whose respective style and grace are virtually indescribable -- before bringing it home with one final verse. "Bass Blues" is the second Coltrane-penned selection on the album. Right from the tricky opening riff, the slightly asymmetrical melody showcases Chambers' ability to mirror even the most intricate or seemingly improvised lines from Coltrane. The mid-tempo pace is a springboard for the tenor's spontaneous inventions as he interfaces with a rollicking and ready Garland alongside Chambers' unfettered bowing. "You Leave Me Breathless" provides everything that a love song should with long, languid runs by Coltrane, Garland, and what is arguably Paul Chambers at his absolute finest. Few passages can match the grace and stately refinement of the bassist as he pilots the proceedings behind Taylor's steady metronome and Garland's luminous, effective comps. John Coltrane with the Red Garland Trio (1957) draws to a close on the bebop lover's dream, a fast and furious interpretation of the Irving Berlin classic "Soft Lights and Sweet Music." Clearly Coltrane excels within this context, laying down his note clusters more rapidly than the listener can actually absorb them. These are clear demarcations pointing toward the remarkable sonic advancements Coltrane was espousing. And although it would be a few years before he'd make the leap into full-blown free jazz, the roots can clearly be traced back here.
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer