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Timeless: John Coltrane

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Album Review

Although collected here under John Coltrane's name, these Savoy sessions recorded between March 13 and June 24, 1958 at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in Hackensack, NJ were actually helmed by trumpet and flugelhorn player Wilbur Harden, who had the good sense to hire Coltrane for the project (which resulted in the original LPs Countdown and Africa). He also brought aboard trombonist Curtis Fuller, pianists Tommy Flanagan and Howard Williams (the sessions split into quintet and sextet groupings, with slightly different rhythm sections for each), bassists Doug Watkins and Ali Jackson and drummers Louis Hayes and Art Taylor. By accident or design, Coltrane was fore-grounded in most of the mixes, and his playing sounds joyous and energetic, matched perfectly by both of the ensemble configurations, and these were obviously productive sessions. Assigning Coltrane's name as lead to these sides some fifty years later may not be exactly historically accurate, but he is clearly the focus on many of these tracks. Harden, who is somewhat of the forgotten man in all of this, should not be dismissed, however, because these were his sessions, after all, and his playing is warm, steady (he often doubles up trumpet with flugelhorn) and well worthy of a larger recorded discography than history provided him.


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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