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Jazz Reviews on JazzNet247 Radio Europe

Artist : John Coltrane

Album : Blue Train

Year : 1957

Label : Blue Note

john coltrane

: John Coltrane : Saxophone | Lee Morgan : Trumpet | Curtis Fuller : Trombone | Kenny Drew : Piano | Paul Chambers : Bass | Philly Joe Jones : Drums

Born in Hamlet, North Carolina in 1926 Coltrane's childhood was surrounded by music, his father was an amateur musician who played various instruments.

His early career saw him play with artists like Dinah Washington, Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Bostic and Gary Crosse up until the early 1950's. Coltrane joined Johnny Hodges who had been an alto sax player in the Duke Ellington band. Then in 1955 he joined up with Miles Davis and toured with him in 1955, this partnership with Miles was to continue through until 1961.

hese are the years in which he became a major name in the jazz world and the contrast he offered between his tenor sax and Miles' restrained trumpet made the recordings very special, first on the Prestige label and then on Columbia, these years were regarded as landmark jazz recordings. Coltrane was making a huge name for himself and regarded by his peers as one of the musicians who was directing the future shape of jazz.

In 1957 he played as sideman with the groups of Johnny Griffin, Art Taylor, Tommy Flanagan, Mal Waldron, Sonny Clarke and most importantly, of pianist Thelonious Monk. Monk wanted Coltrane to record with him on Riverside which was one of the most progressive labels of that era.

John Coltrane was just 30 when he recorded Blue Train for Blue Note and it was the first occassion whereby he was given the opportunity to demonstrate his own musical ideas and to reveal his talents as a composer as well as a soloist.

Joining him on Blue Train were trumpeter Lee Morgan, trombonist extrodinaire Curtis Fuller, Kenny Drew on piano, the effervescent Paul Chambers on bass who was much in demand at this period of time and Philly Joe Jones on drums, who like Chambers was the 'Go To' musician for your 'studio' rhythm section.

Coltrane was actually playing with Thelonious Monk at that time of the Blue Train recording whereby his blowing had progressed to playing long solos and that was because he was playing in a much 'freer environment'. In fact the solos were sometimes so long Monk would nip offstage for a drink. Like true jazz musicians Coltrane would improvise, in his words 'Like Madmen'.

The going rate for a sideman on a recording session was just $13-75 per hour so Coltrane had to work as much as he could to survive at this time.

On the recording of Blue Train Coltrane made a major leap forward with his compositions and wrote four of the eventual five tracks on the album, these originals were 'Blue Train', 'Moment's Notice', 'Locomotion' and 'Lazy Bird'. The exception was 'I'm Old Fashioned' written in 1942 by Jerome Kern with lyrics by Johnny Mercer.

Alfred Lion was the owner of Blue Note Records and the Producer on this album as was he on so many others alongside recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder and paid Coltrane for two days of rehearsals as well as for the sessions, this was unheard of at this time, but the norm at the progressive Prestige label.

The rehearsal days were due to the fact that the arrangements for a sextet needed more rehearsal time to get it just perfectly on the recording. It was to pay off handsomely.

The result was to become a major selling album tor the Blue Note label to this day and to cement Coltrane as one of the finest composers and most sought after sideman of this evolutionary time in jazz music.  ^

Review by Wes George
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Similar Artists - Ben Webster, Lester Young, Dexter Gordon, Colman Hawkins, Cannonball Adderley, Jackie McLean, Wayne Shorter, Stan Getz

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