Tuesday, October 15, 2019

John Coltrane - 1963 [2000] "Live At The Half Note"

Despite the inaccurate information given on this three-LP box set (which states that all of the music was recorded at the Half Note in 1963; none of it actually was), these rare performances are quite fascinating. "I Want to Talk About You" and "One Up, One Down" actually originated from Birdland on Feb. 23, 1963 and, although the other performances are from Half Note, they date from May 7 ("Brazilia," "Song of Praise" and "My Favorite Things") of 1965. Coltrane is in particularly fiery form on the later tracks and with four of the eight selections being over 19 minutes long, there is plenty of room for him to stretch out. It's recommended despite the erratic packaging but sure to be hard-to-find.

John Coltrane's "Live At The Half Note" on the Laserlight label is an excellent look at what is arguably jazz's greatest quartet - the "Classic Quartet" of Trane, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones - in an intimate club setting. It is during performances like these, where Coltrane had the ability to stretch out and play at length, improvising and creating on the spur of the moment, that he further developed his signature, searching style. According to the liner notes, these four tunes - "I Want To Talk About You," "Brazilia," "Song Of Praise" and "One Up, One Down" - were recorded in 1963 at the Half Note. However, someone is lying! The reason I say this is I also have a live Coltrane CD called "Live At Birdland And The Half Note," and three of these exact same recordings are featured on that disc (only "Brazilia" is not). This CD on the Cool & Blue label credits "I Want To Talk About You" and "One Up, One Down" as being from a 2/23/63 date at Birdland, not the Half Note, while "Song Of Praise" was documented at the Half Note, but from 5/7/65, and not 1963 as the Laserlight disc claims. I tend to believe the information on the Cool & Blue disc is correct, not only because the liner notes are more detailed, but because "Song Of Praise" and "Brazilia" are better quality recordings, and clearly not from the same date as "I Want To Talk About You" and "One Up, One Down." Potential historical inaccuracies aside, the Laserlight disc will be a welcome addition to any Coltrane collection. The sound is excellent and the performances are first rate.

Because of the absence of information about dates and personnel as well the uneven quality of the recorded sound, not to mention Coltrane's performance itself, this album cannot be recommended for the uninitiated. Spend a couple of extra bucks and purchase "Live at Birdland" or "A Love Supreme."
But if you're a student of Coltrane, this particular recording of "I Want to Talk about You"--not at all like the version on "Live at Birdland"--offers a fascinating glimpse at Coltrane's creative process. It begins with cracked notes and unsustained tones, as Coltrane quickly yields to an extended solo by the pianist (McCoy? clearly so on the other 3 tracks but not necessarily on this). Then Coltrane reenters the fray, rejuvenated and ready for action. When he restates the melody and gets to the final dominant chord, scene of his virtuosic cadenza on the "Live at Birdland" recording, he submits himself to a greater challenge than on that date. Instead of exploring all of the chord substitutions, extensions, harmonics on the dominant chord alone, he touches base with the entire song--refrain, bridge, closing refrain--in the midst of another unaccompanied cadenza extraordinaire. It's not the unfaltering pyrotechnical display of the "Birdland" date, but in it's own way it's no less impressive and belongs in the collection of any true believer.


 Track listing:

1     I Want To Talk About You     10:23
2     One Up And One Down     14:42
3     My Favorite Things     14:01
4     Body And Soul     9:57
5     Song Of Praise     19:08


    Saxophone – John Coltrane
    Bass – Jimmy Garrison
    Drums – Elvin Jones
    Piano – McCoy Tyner


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  2. bookmarked!!, I love your website!

  3. Many Thanks!!! -James