John Coltrane – “Live at the Village Vanguard”, “Crescent” – Universal Music Group

by | Oct 8, 2022 | Jazz CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

John Coltrane – Coltrane “Live” At The Village Vanguard – Impulse! A-10 (1962)/Verve – Universal Music Group [Acoustic Sound Series] 180-gram stereo vinyl, 36:31 ****1/2:

(John Coltrane – tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; McCoy Tyner – piano; Reggie Workman – double bass; Jimmy Garrison – double bass; Elvin Jones – drums; Eric Dolphy – bass clarinet)

A re-mastered John Coltrane vinyl is always a welcome addition to any jazz library. Verve/Universal Music Group has released two seminal albums by this jazz icon, Coltrane “Live” At The Village Vanguard and Crescent. Recorded in 1962 and 1964, these two projects represent Coltrane at the apex of his passionate and unrestrained creative integrity. He explores free-form expression, tonal flexibility and deep spirituality. They are precursors to A Love Supreme, the final, definitive studio recording before his untimely death. 

Album Cover for John Coltrane Live at the Village VanguardColtrane “Live At The Village Vanguard” consists of three tracks recorded on November 2nd and 3rd in 1961. The audio setup was done by none other than Rudy Van Gelder. He is joined by members of his classic quartet (McCoy Tyner/piano; Reggie Workman/double bass and Elvin Jones/drums), Eric Dolphy (bass clarinet) and Jimmy Garrison (double bass). Side 1 opens with the ruminative “Spiritual”. The intro sets up an ethereal musical dialogue between Coltrane and Dolphy. Coltrane takes the first lead on muscular tenor as Tyner’s graceful piano weaves around a swaying tempo with Workman and Jones. After Dolphy’s sinewy run, Tyner’s articulate extended solo is nothing short of compelling with left-hand chords and right-hand notation. Coltrane returns on soprano, keeping the bluesy feel. While there is tonal flexibility on the woodwinds, the overall vibe is mellow. Tyner takes the lead on the swing-infused cover of Sigmund Romberg’s 1928 opus, “Softly As In A Morning Sunrise”. His innate up tempo phrasing with forceful crescendos is magnetic. Jones’ brush work is exemplary. Trane ascends on his soprano, bringing an increased level of intensity that propels the quartet. He introduces a sharper tonality, but without shrillness.

Side 2 contains the sole composition, “Chasin’ The Trane”. This is hard charging improvisation in a trio format (no piano, this time Jimmy Garrison with Jones). Coltrane is incendiary on tenor, pushing the instrumental boundaries. The furious rhythm section never lets up. Coltrane seems to be operating on a different musical level, immersed in sonic explosions. For over 16 minutes, the master percolates. It is evident that Coltrane “Live” At The Village Vanguard is a turning point in jazz lore.    

Side 1: Spiritual; Softly As In A Morning Sunrise
Side 2: Chasin’ The Trane.

John Coltrane Quartet – Crescent – Impulse! A-66 (1964)/Verve-Universal Music Group [Acoustic Sounds Series] 180-gram stereo vinyl, 40:10 ****1/2:

(John Coltrane – McCoy Tyner – piano; Jimmy Garrison – double bass; Elvin Jones – drums)

The 1964 release, Crescent is notable for several reasons. It features some of Coltrane’s best work as an interpreter of ballads. This quartet (with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones) is fully integrated into the five cuts (all original compositions). Alternating between gentle melodic translation and occasional unsettling motifs, the album is hypnotic. Side One opens with the title track. After a ruminative opening, the ensemble shifts into laid-back swing mode at the 1:36 mark. Coltrane’s tenor is fluid with ample shades of jagged intonation. The arrangement feels like modal jazz. On “Wise One”, Tyner’s eloquent piano frames the melody. Coltrane’s performance is soulful and tender with vibrato as he distills the melancholy. At the 3:05 mark, Tyner adds a tempo uptick in his erudite solo, as Jones and Garrison provide a cohesive anchor. Coltrane re-enters with lithe, gossamer play. It is mesmerizing and reflects a deeper resonance. “Bessie’s Blues” is certainly a change from the moodier tunes, It is a straight ahead romp with lighter feel and atypically concise at just under three-and-a-half minutes.

Album Cover for John Coltrane Crescent“Lonnie’s Lament” showcases Coltrane’s mournful shading. The rhythm section picks up the pace with Tyner’s crisp solo. There are jazzy chord modulations and rolling trills., all framed by a silky vamp. Garrison follows with a gliding run before Coltrane rejoins the quartet’a plaintive context. “The Drum Thing” is an interesting finale. Trane, Garrison and Jones create a steady pulse as Jones subtly adds percussion. Subsequently, there is a rousing multi-faceted drum solo by Jones before the quartet comes back.

Verve-Universal Music Group has done an outstanding job in re-mastering Coltrane “Live” At The Village Vanguard and Crescent to 180-gram vinyl. The sound mix on both albums (Ryan Smith/QRP)  captures the precision and vibrancy of Rudy Van Gelder’s trademark engineering. These vinyl pressings are excellent with no hisses or pops and excellent two-channel separation. The packaging (gatefold and inner sleeves) is top-notch.  

Side 1: Crescent; Wise One; Bessie’s Blues
Side 2: Lonnie’s Lament; The Drum Thing            

—Robbie Gerson

Please visit vendor Acoustic Sounds for more information

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Album Cover for John Coltrane Crescent

Album Cover for John Coltrane Live at the Village Vanguard


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