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Interplay for 2 Trumpets and 2 Tenors

John Coltrane, Bobby Jaspar, Idrees Sulieman & Webster Young

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Album Review

John Coltrane (tenor sax) resumed his association with Rudy Van Gelder's Prestige label on a late March 1957 "all-star" session alongside Idrees Sulieman (trumpet), Webster Young (trumpet), Bobby Jaspar (tenor sax), Kenny Burrell (guitar), Paul Chambers (bass), Art Taylor (drums), and de facto arranger/songwriter Mal Waldron. Things really heat up after the core ensemble retires, leaving Coltrane and Red Garland (piano) to be supported by the Chambers/Taylor rhythm section. But more about that in a moment. This interesting blend of instrumentalists lives up to its potential as well as the equally intriguing Interplay for 2 Trumpets and 2 Tenors (1957). In fact, the appropriately named "Interplay" is up first with the melody extracting a feel that, while deeply entrenched in bop, has undeniable roots in Dixieland. Sulieman is exceptional for his melodic and thoughtful contributions, although it seems to be Coltrane who drives the theme the furthest. The tune's call-and-response structure doesn't fetter Coltrane as he pushes boundaries, pointing in the direction his music would continue to take. Kenny Burell gets some space to stretch on the understated and refined cool of "Anatomy." After the horns collectively establish the mid-tempo groove, listeners are treated to sublime solos via the stringed mastery of both the guitarist's fluid fret runs as well as Chambers' warm and playful bowed bass. Waldron picks back up for a few bars before handing things over to the brass. Note Sulieman's focus and strength as his flurry is a perfect springboard for Coltrane's criminally short interjections. Just like its name suggests, "Light Blue" presents the essence of the blues in a practically playful manner. After the short but sweet intro — featuring some excellent comping by Burrell — Waldron's presence evolves into weaving phrases clearly inspired by the guitarist. It is fascinating how Coltrane "gets up to speed" as if his portion is joined already in-progress and fully formed. According to Carl Woideck's liner notes — accompanying Coltrane's Complete Prestige Recordings (1991) — the straightforward elegance of "Soul Eyes" was "written by Waldron with Coltrane in mind." No doubt another reason the saxophonist chose to incorporate the selection into one of the signatures of his own "classic quartet." The trumpets and tenor saxes collectively create a warm, intimate, and inviting harmonic embrace. Burrell is sublime as are Waldon's accents to his detailed string work, while the muted sound of Young conjures the cool and sweetness of Miles Davis. Most CD incarnations of Interplay for 2 Trumpets and 2 Tenors also include a rousing reading of Jimmy Heath's "C.T.A." with Coltrane, the aforementioned Red Garland (piano), and timekeepers Chambers/Taylor. The experience here is certainly looser, with the quartet leaping into overdrive as Coltrane's confidence soars and his playing is unquestionably ahead of its time.


Born: September 23, 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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