Saturday, January 28, 2006
Tenor Madness... Rollins, Coltrane and more Coltrane...
Yet more Coltrane – I have my obsessions... Two book ends almost – a blowing session with Sonny Rollins from 1956 and a track from the wild 'Live in Seattle' sessions dated 1965. Some people like early Trane, others late Trane, some in the middle. I like them all. The fascination maybe is to track the route he travelled from bebop to fire music. An amazing journey which still fascinates and grabs.
'Tenor Madness' is a blues riff vehicle for some good blowing. Coltrane exploratory, Rollins easy bouncing. Plus the ever-admirable Miles Davis rhythm section: Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. Two tenor solos and swapping fours later on. Plus the usual Garland rippling magic – a pianist I really like, with a bright-eyed sparkle to every solo. Chambers on bass – ditto – smooth as ever. Philly Joe plays with his always limber swing and sharpness. I can remember some of the old school jazz critics from way back writing that these blowing sessions were too long – raised on the medium-necessary succintness of the 3 minute 78. For me the time passes too soon. Given the historic nature of this session – the only time they played together on recordt- tenor madness? Well... not really. If you are thinking in terms of bop/hard bop, you would go to Johnny Griffin and Lockjaw Davis, for instance. Rollins was the more established player, but Coltrane certainly does not sound lagging or country cousinish. Within ten years... Rollins went into retreat, allegedly as a reaction to Coltrane's magisterial rise (who knows the real story?). And Coltrane was pouring out pure molten fire like...
...'Live in Seattle:' legendary scorching with Pharoah Sanders. For me, Sanders, a good player, never transcended his time with the Coltrane band, never consistently played at such peaks again. Audience applause, bass in, then strumming underneath a tentative horn chorale slowly building – Donald Garrett added to Sanders and the rest of the quartet – Tyner, Elvin Jones and Garrison. But no piano and drums at the beginning – which reminds me of a couple of Albert Ayler tracks, a squiggly high horn line almost emulating the strings in someof his bands – Michael Sampson et al.. Like some weird chamber music cross with New Orleans collective funkiness. The horns start to duel going strongly into a helter skelter conversation. This also demonstrates how a large part of the Coltrane 'sound,' especially late Trane, is rooted in the boiling rhythms of the drummers – Jones and later Rashied Ali – together and separately – that he bounced off so mightily. The horns drop out and leave Garrison to play one of his 'guitarry' solos – fast, thoughtful and melodic strumming. When the piano and drums kick in after this solo – to prove my point - the energy levels shift perceptively. Tyner drops out fairly quickly – as usual – and the drums start to really dig in – and dig in more and more behind Coltrane's long, searching solo. Weird cries and grunts:'Woooaah' Then into free collective horns freakout. Tyner edges back in – hey, I'm still here, boys! His instrument is a bit 'pub piano-y' but recorded clearly. An inspired two-fisted solo, rhapsodic and powerful – back into more collective blowing that starts to lift you to impossible realms before slowly winding down – and out on a piano trill and applause that sounds distant – as if the audience were too wrung out to clap too loudly. Majestic – and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Leaving you breathless and exhilarated.
Yeah, it's 35 minutes long. So what? To borrow a Miles tune...