John Coltrane

Plays the Blues

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Coltrane's sessions for Atlantic in late October 1960 were prolific, yielding the material for My Favorite Things, Coltrane Plays the Blues, and Coltrane's Sound. My Favorite Things was destined to be the most remembered and influential of these, and while Coltrane Plays the Blues is not as renowned or daring in material, it is still a powerful session. As for the phrase "plays the blues" in the title, that's not an indicator that the tunes are conventional blues (they aren't). It's more indicative of a bluesy sensibility, whether he is playing muscular saxophone or, on "Blues to Bechet" and "Mr. Syms," the more unusual sounding (at the time) soprano sax. Elvin Jones, who hadn't been in Coltrane's band long, really busts out on the quicker numbers, such as "Blues to You" and "Mr. Day." [Some reissues add five bonus tracks: two alternates apiece of "Blues to Elvin" and "Blues to You," and "Untitled Original (Exotica)." All three were recorded on October 24, 1960. Also, a two-CD Expanded Edition released in 2017 included 13 bonus tracks recorded between 1957 and 1960, featuring the aforementioned Jones, pianist McCoy Tyner and bassist Steve Davis (both also heard on the original Plays the Blues album), as well as such additional jazz luminaries as Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan, Gene Ammons, Cecil Payne, Pepper Adams, Milt Jackson, Hank Jones, Red Garland, Mal Waldron, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Art Taylor.]

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