6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 2 June 2001
This session was hastily put together, recorded on the same day as another album, but in retrospect it turned out to be a visionary idea. How would one of the leading experimenters of the time tackle the very roots of the music, its most fundamental form? After listening to Coltrane Plays the Blues, no one could credibly accuse the form of being monotonous, infertile or banal.
In a tribute to Sidney Bechet, "Blues to Bechet", Coltrane plays the soprano saxophone alone with bass and drums, fusing blues and Middle Eastern idioms together in passionate, incantatory figures that dance like eddies in a mountain stream. "Mr. Syms" also features Coltrane on soprano, but here he merely states the theme, opening up the central solo space to McCoy Tyner, who delivers an exquisite blues, swinging with all the majesty of a great and profound tradition. In a time when both jazz and Coltrane himself were undergoing a period of turbulent self-analysis, this record serves as a refreshing reminder of the illuminating simplicity of the central architecture of jazz: the blues.
Ironically, but perhaps fittingly, the critic Ralph J. Gleason wrote in the original liner notes to Coltrane's Sound that "this music is an extraordinary example of the complex beauty of this most complex age".
That Coltrane was able to record two albums in the same day that masterfully captured the polar opposites of simplicity and complexity without contradiction is testament to his genius.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 18 March 2008
This compilation of six blues pieces from the epic three day sessions for Atlantic Records in October 1960 (which also yielded the albums "My Favourite Things", "Coltrane's Sound" and a stray track on "Coltrane Jazz") is among Coltrane's finest albums.
The blues were central to Coltrane's music from the outset. From R&B through Bebop and onto the massive aural climax of "Chasin' The Trane", he never abandoned his link with the basic emotional resouce in jazz and it is fascinating to hear how this most elementary of forms was viewed through Coltrane's artistic prism in 1960.
There are contrasting grooves, tempos and keys, ranging from the ostinato based melodies of "Mr.Day" and "Mr. Knight", through to the wholly improvised heads of "Blues To Bechet", with Coltrane's soprano paying tribute to the themes namesake and "Blues To You".
The latter is perhaps one of the least commented upon of Coltrane's recordings, oddly enough as it serves as a sort of studio sketch of the forthcoming "Chasin' The Trane" (annotator Joe Goldberg accurately mentions its similarity to Coltrane's club performances of the time).
Whilst the record doesn't quite scale the heights as the classic quartet were to do on future sets such as "Coltrane" (Impulse 1962), the slightly lower-pressure atmosphere makes this album and ideal introduction to Coltrane's middle-period music. Indeed it is hard to think of anyone now finding anything objectionable about this music.
A bonus track "Untitled Original" departs from the blues-format and is a rerun of a Coltrane composition recorded for Roulette earlier in 1960 as "Exotica" and built upon the "Giant Steps" cycle being partially appended to the standard "I Can't Get Started".
Listeners who enjoy this are urged to check out the other albums recorded at these sessions, mentioned above.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
From 1962 comes this relatively obscure but highly enjoyable item from the Coltrane catalogue.Over the course of 6 tracks we get to hear the great saxophonist give us a fairly relaxed exploration of the blues form.Pianist McCoy Turner provides the rhythmic and chordal underpinning (on most tunes) while Coltrane plays the themes followed by solos of varying intensity and speed.Tracks like 'Blues to Bechet' give us the opportunity to hear Coltrane playing with an uncluttered simplicity and directness that is the hallmark of all true great blues playing. Meanwhile tunes like 'Blues to You' and 'Mr Day' show how infinitely adaptable the blues format is to a master.Here Coltrane lets loose-showing that he can create sinuous and exciting musical statements even with the barest of materials to work with- creating fresh and original sounding ideas that are played with a deliciously warm lyrical tone ,that draws the listener in and leaves them wanting more.
The set comes with a series of bonus tracks which add little to the value of the disc,but on the positive side- the remastering sounds great and the sleeve notes and additional photographs are of definite interest.In summation then,'Plays the Blues' is worth a place in any jazz fans collection. Check out the lovely 'Mr Knight' (worth for purchasing the album for this track alone!)a lovely little swinging number that sounds like it could have come off of the 'Kind of Blue' sessions- of particular note is the lovely intro melody played by Coltrane and the stunning solo piano work from Turner.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 9 June 2013
I bought this LP in my last year of university to play on my friend's record player, we'd come from a night out and sit and listen to it. It's mesmerising. Truly beautiful. I've listened to quite a bit of Coltrane in my time and it's by far one of my favourite records. It's greatly helped by having a CD copy, for all your digital needs, however, I've just taken to listening to it on the turntable instead.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 15 December 1999
For a single group of performers recording an album-length blues performance this is not your standard collection: there is no singer and indeed each number is quite distinct from the last. Quartet leader Coltrane alternates on tenor and soprano, he also cuts McCoy Tyner out on a couple of tracks (..to Bechet and ...to You) to provide a trio texture. These are not the only measures employed to extract variety from the standard blues form. A slow blues in E flat opens the album gently; more interesting is the pianoless Blues to Bechet, fittingly using soprano. Switching back to tenor, Coltrane produces harmonic effects in Blues To You which reflect the time of exploration he spent with Monk. This is pretty standard 'Trane, with the characteristic use of upper harmonics - not always successful! Bassist Steve Davis walks steadily throughout, but drummer Elvin Jones adds rhythmic counterpoint to the saxophonist's melodic exploration. Mr Day is a tidy little composition, arranged for syncopated bass and a rhythmic ostinato in the piano. Harmonically the piece has a quasi-modal feel, Tyner employing 11ths and 13ths throughout. Perhaps the improvised portion is over-lengthy for some tastes. Mr Syms again involves some more attention to composition and arrangement and Tyner is here giving the chance to do his funky stuff: a class act. Soprano arpeggios give an exotic flavour to usher in the reprise. Mr Knight is a fizzing 12-bar essay which benefits from a gradually broadening introduction. This album rates four stars because of the quality of the instrumental performances, and because of the recorded sound. It is also a genuine collection, not some anthology cooked up by a label. A tendency to overlong solos by the leader and the absence of organised composition on at least three of the tracks mean that the fifth star is quite a way off. That Ornette Coleman was already influential by the time this disc was cut render this an album of no great historical significance. It does however provide a few different flavours to the classic blues recipe.