John Coltrane: Live In '60, '61 &'65 DVD 2007 Jazz Icons Series

This entry in Reelin' in the Years Productions' Jazz Icons series offers a music-intensive multimedia presentation of John Coltrane (tenor sax/soprano sax). The contents are split between three half-hour sets from D sseldorf, West Germany (March 28, 1960), Baden-Baden, West Germany (December 4, 1961), and Comblain-La-Tour, Belgium (August 1, 1965). Historically, they are uniformly indispensable. Not solely due to the subject matter, but primarily owing to the sheer dearth of existing Coltrane audio/visual documents. Fate had a hand in the D sseldorf date as Coltrane is essentially fulfilling a contractual obligation on behalf of Miles Davis during Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic Presents: Jazz Winners of 1960 European tour.


At the time Coltrane put his career on hold -- even cancelling his own concerts -- to sit in with Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums) for the outing. Joining the Davis ensemble on the road were the Stan Getz Quartet and the Oscar Peterson Trio. After Miles declined to participate in the broadcast, the gig was given to Coltrane, who gamely leads the ranks through what would have been typical fare for the Miles Davis Quintet. While these are all above average workouts, particularly worth mentioning are the rare opportunities for modern viewers to observe Chambers' melodic bowing bass solo on "Walkin'." Plus, the primitive split-screen effects allow viewers a unique perspective on Kelly and Cobb's interaction. Getz gets in on the action during the final tune of a Great American Songbook medley containing "Autumn Leaves"/"What's New" and "Moonlight in Vermont." Getz's cool sophistication is perfectly contrasted by Coltrane's sharper and incisive sound. Peterson then takes over the pianist seat for a rousing rendition of Thelonious Monk's "Hackensack." Once again, hearing the two very different sax stylists on the upbeat bop jumper is a treat as Peterson's hearty keyboarding drives the rest of the combo's solid contributions. The following year Coltrane was joined by the great Eric Dolphy (alto sax/flute), Reggie Workman (bass), McCoy Tyner (piano), and Elvin Jones (drums) for another West German television show. There had been considerable progress in Coltrane's spiritual development as his increasing interest in Eastern philosophy and religion has translated onto the bandstand. From the same core lineup as featured on Coltrane's landmark Live at the Village Vanguard come the covers of "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodtime," "My Favorite Things," and the unmitigated zenith -- an epic reading of Coltrane's own "Impressions." Saving the best for last, Jazz Icons: John Coltrane (2007) concludes with the "classic" John Coltrane Quartet personage of Coltrane (tenor sax/soprano sax), McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums). As Coltrane historian Ashley Kahn points out in the detailed liner notes booklet essay, the opening selection is listed as "'Vigil'...for the purposes of publishing." Indeed the same energy on the track that would eventually surface on Kulu Se Mama (1965) is captured in these feverish free-form moments. Other equally brilliant renderings are the ballad "Naima" and a second yet undeniably singular version of "My Favorite Things." If you own but one John Coltrane DVD, make it this one. Every level of enthusiast -- from the curious to connoisseur -- is well served and is assured to revisit the sounds and images often.


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