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Coltrane for Lovers

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Album Review

If you came across a CD titled Getz for Lovers, Prez for Lovers, or Baker for Lovers, you wouldn't be the least bit surprised. After all, Stan Getz, Chet Baker, and Lester "The Pres" Young were all famous for their smooth ballad playing — if you've been listening to Julie London or June Christy and suddenly find yourself in the mood for something comparable by an instrumentalist, those guys would be obvious choices. John Coltrane, however, isn't necessarily the first person that people associate with adjectives like smooth and romantic. Trane could be a very forceful, aggressive player — some reviewers have described his playing as "angry" — and during the last few years of his life (when he was exploring atonal free jazz), the saxman could be downright blistering. Nonetheless, the fact is that Trane was a magnificent ballad player, and it makes perfect sense for Verve to assemble a collection of his more romantic work. Released in 2001, Coltrane for Lovers draws on such Impulse! titles as Coltrane ("Soul Eyes"), Impressions ("After the Rain"), and Ballads ("It's Easy to Remember"). "My Little Brown Book," a Billy Strayhorn gem, is from Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, while "They Say It's Wonderful" illustrates the triumphant nature of Trane's 1963 encounter with singer Johnny Hartman. Back in 1963, there were those who felt that Coltrane and Hartman, a very sophisticated crooner, were an odd combination. But in fact, the two provided to be every bit as compatible as Coltrane and Ellington. Again, Coltrane was versatile — he loved to play forcefully, but that didn't prevent him from having a romantic side. Coltrane for Lovers doesn't tell the entire story where Coltrane's ballad playing is concerned; the saxman also did his share of stunning ballad work at Prestige and Atlantic. Nonetheless, this is an excellent collection that has no problem reminding us just how warm and expressive his ballad playing could be.

Biography

Born: 23 September 1926 in Hamlet, NC

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s

Despite a relatively brief career (he first came to notice as a sideman at age 29 in 1955, formally launched a solo career at 33 in 1960, and was dead at 40 in 1967), saxophonist John Coltrane was among the most important, and most controversial, figures in jazz. It seems amazing that his period of greatest activity was so short, not only because he recorded prolifically, but also because, taking advantage of his fame, the record companies that recorded him as a sideman in the 1950s frequently reissued...
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