As part of the celebration of its 75th anniversary Blue Note are reissuing 100 treasured titles on 180 gram vinyl. Among the first batch of five is this gem from John Coltrane – his one and only recording for Blue Note.
“A provocative item in the hard, modern idiom, most notable for tenor-ist Coltrane’s arresting solo continuity. Obviously moved by vibrant, creative rhythm playing – Paul Chambers, (Philly) Joe Jones, Kenny Drew – trumpeter Lee Morgan and trombonist C. Fuller also turn in top performances.” Billboard 3 March 1958
This is an album revered, cherished, and loved by many; and there are others who cannot quite see what all the fuss is about. We are firmly in the former camp. Granted, some controversy surrounds the recording and critics argue that both Lee Morgan and Curtis Fuller have done much better work elsewhere. Yet such judgements seem overly harsh; this is after all a Coltrane album. Kenny Drew, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones had already played together on an album the pianist recorded for Riverside Records, so they were already acquainted with each other’s style.
In truth, for the title track alone – and its value is virtually doubled by the addition of a ‘Moment’s Notice’ – this record is a masterpiece. So familiar is ‘Blue Train’ that it feels like a theme to some long-forgotten TV series or the soundtrack of an atmospheric movie. It is everything that makes jazz so affecting.
Much of the debate surrounding the album centres on the track, ‘Blue Train’. On the original album release, the piano solo from take 8 is spliced into the following take from the same September 1957 session to create what we have come to accept as Coltrane’s masterpiece. A later reissue has both the complete take 8 and the composite version, much to Van Gelder’s annoyance, who considered such tape-splicing ‘desecration’.
Along with the four Coltrane originals there is a beautiful reading of the Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer standard, ‘I’m Old Fashioned’ that is unapologetically sentimental and among Coltrane’s finest ballads.