John Coltrane, Live in ’60, ’61, & ’65

by | Sep 12, 2007 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

John Coltrane, Live in ’60, ’61, & ’65
Performers: 1960 – John Coltrane, tenor sax; Wynton Kelly, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Jimmy Cobb, drums; special guests, Oscar Peterson, piano; Stan Getz, tenor sax
1961 – John Coltrane, tenor and soprano sax; Eric Dolphy, alto sax, flute; Reggie Workman, bass; Elvin Jones, drums
1965 – John Coltrane, tenor & soprano sax; McCoy Tyner, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass; Elvin Jones, drums)
Studio: Jazz Icons (Distr. by Naxos) DVD 2119007
Video: 4:3 full screen,B& W 
Audio:  Dolby Digital mono  
Extras: Ilustrated booklet
Length: 95 minutes      
Rating: *****

In Michael Cuscuna’s liner notes on the new Jazz Icons John Coltrane DVD that covers five years in Coltrane’s career as a recording leader, he states that John’s entire recording career — both as a side man and leader – comprised a brief 12 years. Even with this brief recording career, his monumental impact in the jazz world as a tenor stylist is still felt today.  His “sheets of sound” playing, followed by his entrée into avant playing, coupled with his spiritual search would make a casual jazz fan believe that his recording career would have spanned decades rather than this brief period. Coltrane’s profound influence on saxophone players continues to this day.

This invaluable DVD covers first a 1960 performance with Miles Davis’ rhythm section, on a European tour with Davis.  Davis sat out this March 28, 1960 performance in Germany, but we get the privilege to hear Oscar Peterson on Hackensack, and Coltrane spurring on Stan Getz on both Moonlight in Vermont, and Hackensack. The strong black and white contrast found in the filming, coupled with moody shadow effects is striking in this 1960 performance. Coltrane’s playing was still relatively straight ahead during this period, but also very emotional and passionate.

By the end of 1961, when the second session in Germany was televised, Coltrane’s group had evolved tremendously with the addition of Eric Dolphy into post-modal territory.  There are three tracks from this 1961 date. The main feature is the legendary soprano sax classic, My Favorite Things, which today is found on virtually any Coltrane devotees’ “best of list.” It reintroduced the soprano saxophone as a featured instrument in both modal and avant circles.

The final date presented here, August 1, 1965, found Coltrane near the end of his classic quartet period.  This period was noted for 20 minute to 30 minute intense workouts.  Noteworthy in the last concert was unseasonably cold weather in Europe for an August time period. It is striking to see the body heat generated into smoke in the chilly confines of the Belgian countryside.

The Belgian concert was Coltrane’s last European appearance, and perhaps the last filmed document of this genius in action. He died less than two years later.  Out of the entire series of Jazz Icon DVDs, now in its second series, the Coltrane DVD may be the most valuable, as it documents five years of dramatic changes in the brief recording period  of one of the greatest masters of the jazz idiom.  For that reason, this is a must-buy for jazz aficionados.

– Jeff Krow 

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