This is one of my favourite studio albums by the John Coltrane quartet and, in some ways, preferable to his famous 'A Love Supreme' which was recorded a few months later.
Coltrane is in a melancholy and meditative mood and his tenor sounds majestic on the profound 'Wise One'. 'Lonnie's Lament' is a lyrical and haunting piece, while 'The Drum Thing' is a fascinating feature for the astonishingly polyrhythmic Elvin Jones.
All in all, a deeply moving album by this beautifully integrated quartet and 'Crescent' is an essential CD for anyone who has 'A Love Supreme' in their collection.
on 6 April 2002
Recorded shortly before Love Supreme this album is just sublime. Coltrane exudes passion but never lets down his guard. The album feels as good as A Kind of Blue and because of Love Supreme it is often overlooked. Buy it - you'll not regret it!
on 26 October 2013
John Coltrane recorded only two albums during 1964: the iconic A Love Supreme and Crescent, assembled from two recording sessions during the spring and summer of that year. Whilst the plaudits have so often been directed at the former - indeed, the story of its creation has even been turned into a book - it is perhaps Crescent that remains the most fascinating of all Coltrane's albums. It is also one that stands almost apart from the rest of his discography. So what makes it so special and why is it so often cited as his best by legions of hard core Trane followers?
The answers are many: first of all, the album radiates its own unique atmosphere - serene yet questing - with Coltrane's knotty solos breaking down into what sounds like a private dialogue with himself. Never before had his playing so dispensed with convention. At times on Wise One and the titles track its as if he's pushing jazz through his own personal cipher, so removed is it from the dominant practices of his previous work. The albums mood of melancholy is also superbly captured by Rudy Van Gelder's engineering. The tone Coltrane employs here is also darker and more closed than that on his recordings from the previous two years (during which he was alleged to have suffered from mouthpiece problems) adding to the elegiac ambience.
However, the reason Crescent makes its impact is far subtler: the previous three years had seen him mining the concept of modal jazz in a way that had become defining - Afro Blue, My Favourite Things, The Inch Worm, Tunji, Impressions, The Promise each featured lengthy, spiralling solos in which Coltrane took the barest of materials and reconfigured them. With Crescent he returned to sequential harmony in a way that was unique: song form reappeared and yet it was quite unlike either his earlier harmonic breakthroughs on records like Coltrane's Sound or his appropriation of Broadway material on Ballads. The components were stripped down to a music that united the candid soul-bearing of modes with the structural sense the saxophonist had gained through his bop apprenticeship. Witness the title track - apparently once part of a bigger suite including another composition After The Crescent - a theme with uncommon harmonic and melodic movement, or Wise One, a ballad of a very different kind to previous pieces like Naima or Central Park West. Even The Drum Thing - a title which may invite the listener to believe it will be a thunderous showcase for Elvin Jones - is a measured, unfolding theme cast over the drummers mallets and Garrison's stately bass.
The albums programming is another key to its success: smack bang in the middle, after the emotional denouement of the first two themes, is Bessie's Blues, a simple, no harmonic frills expose on the basis tenet of jazz. Once occupying the first track of side 2 of the vinyl, it stands as something of a palate cleanser for what's to come - a judicious almost theatrical move affording Tyner a chance to shine on an album on which he is somewhat under wraps.
Coltrane made many more recordings after Crescent yet to many listeners it will remain his slightly veiled masterpiece, forever cast in the shadow of its better know successor. However, one mystery about the record has never been solved: in the sleeve notes Coltrane is reported to have spend many months preparing his material. Indeed, the paucity of material listed in his discography for 1964 suggests some kind of career sabbatical. What was he doing? How did he prepare? What did Crescent refer to and what did a suite built upon it symbolise? Why was the record such a melancholy statement? It's unlikely that we'll now find the true answers, leaving Crescent as an enigmatic, beautiful testament to the great musical odyssey of John William Coltrane.
on 18 June 2004
This CD was recorded within months of the more celebrated "A Love Supreme" and, because of this fact , remained over-looked at the time. Clearly the classic Quartet had reached it's zenith around this time and it is my contention that as good as the more famous record is, this is, in fact, the superior effort.
Part of my reasoning stems from the fact the "A Love Supreme" ends of any anti-climax (even if you believe that the solo is an "instrumental" incantation of the poem enclosed within the album sleeve) especially after the barn-storming central movements. "Crescent" leaves you wanting more and has a more varied programme including the atmospheric "The drum thing", the soon to be jazz standard "Lonnie's Lament" and the terrific "Bessie's Blues." On top of this, the album includes "Wise One", perhaps the apogee of Coltrane's playing on record.
"Crescent" eschews the rather dated spritual trappings that slightly mars "A Love Supreme" for me and consequently is much better for this. If this record contained "Wise One" alone, it would be worth while buying. Since the disc is a model of consistency through-out, it must be considered an essential purchase in the same league as other 'Trane classics such as "Giant Steps." One of the most under-rated jazz albums from the 1960's.
on 27 October 2012
By the time this set was recorded for the Impulse label in 1964 this band had been together a while, but the level of their telepathy was always greater than any amount of time they might have spent playing together. Coltrane himself now had his own thing going on to the extent that he was equally distant from both Coleman Hawkins and his near-contemporary Sonny Rollins; trying to imagine the latter playing anything that Coltrane does in this set is thus virtually impossible.
Although not acclaimed as much as some other titles in Coltrane's discography, this set encapsulates how lyrical a player he was. On the title track his playing is pared down yet expansive, and at times borne aloft on Elvin Jones's percussive drive.
`Wise One' is set up by pianist McCoy Tyner, whose distinctive touch means he can easily set the mood in the space of a few bars. Coltrane's reflection has the effect of making the music hang in the air until the beginning of Tyner's solo at around the three minute mark, where bass player Jimmy Garrison falls in with Jones to create a wave of sound which carries the pianist on.
`Lonnie's Lament' is the longest track on this set, a point of some significance given the length of many of Coltrane's expositions. Again it's not so much restraint as it is reflection which dominates proceedings. To hear this band in this mood is to cop an earful of but one element of its artistry.
Miles Davis's quintet with Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams has become the benchmark for jazz musicians working within the "modern mainstream", and while nothing can be taken away from that band the fact that those same musicians prefer earlier Coltrane than this album says something for the self-containment of this unit. This album defines that, and is thus essential for anyone claiming an interest in "modern" jazz.
on 12 June 2013
Crescent by JC is one of the final releases prior to slipping the stays that held the quartet to a recognisable melody and structure and sailing outwards to planet free jazz. So it's on the cusp between lyrical JC and the avant-garde and that's the key to it's success for me. Take the opening, title track - a masterpiece where JC sets out his theme then revisits it in increasingly challenging ways but brings it back to recognisable melody even though you can feel that he probably wanted to bend it further. That's what really delivers - he's right on the edge and resists the urge to jump off. Track 2, Wise One is great as well, a masterly, lyrical and rhythmic piece that really showcases the quartet as a whole. This whole release is superb, really one of the finest jazz records ever.
I first heard this music as an impressionable student 30 years ago and it has insinuated itself into my musical DNA along with my other JC favourite "I Want to Talk About You" (the later versions with the other-worldly tenor solo).
This 1964 recording by John Coltrane is notable for a number of reasons. It is one of his more introspective and melancholy-sounding collections of music, but, as a consequence contains some of the most sublimely melodic and lyrical playing I've heard from the man. Secondly, it showcases the contributions from the supporting players of his legendary quartet (McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones) probably more than any other of their recordings. These factors, plus the fact that Coltrane's five compositions here are each, in their own way, outstanding, lead me to rate Crescent, along with Giant Steps and A Love Supreme, as one of his finest recordings.
The album's four major (i.e. longest) compositions all have slow and sublime underlying musical themes, but, aside from this common feature, all present a different side to Coltrane's composing. For me, the album's standout piece is Wise One, which is simply one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. Opening with heavenly subtlety in McCoy Tyner's playing, Coltrane's main theme floats into hearing with an almost trembling sensitivity, thereafter Messrs. Garrison and Jones provide the necessary minimalist backing rhythm, as Coltrane and, to a lesser extent, Tyner, open the tune out thereby taking on a more expansive nature, before returning once again to end on that magnificent melody. Wise One is one of my favourite Coltrane ballads, up there with the likes of Alabama, Naima and After The Rain.
The remaining three extended pieces all have their great moments, but, for me, are not quite the succinct masterpiece that is Wise One (although Lonnie's Lament is close). Each begin on a sublime, melancholy Coltrane melody, and thereafter follow with nice expositional solos, in the case of the title tune, from Coltrane, on Lonnie's Lament via an interesting turn from Jimmy Garrison and (unsurprisingly, I guess) on The Drum Thing, a beautifully constructed and judged display from ace player, drummer Elvin Jones. Sandwiched between the four magna opera (the half-time oranges, if you will) is the three minute blues ditty, the up-tempo Bessie's Blues, which features a lively solo from Tyner.
Certainly, as essential album for any jazz collection.
on 14 February 2012
I first bought this way back in 1968 and it has remained one of my favourite albums by John Coltrane. Turn the lights down and close your eyes. This is as near to paradise you are going to get in this side of the curtain.
on 7 August 2014
Well, it seems that I am the first one to review the 2 LP 45 rpm 180 gram vinyl of this superb Coltrane's album and well, I must say that I have been literally blown away by the sound of this ORG reissue. Wow. I have been listening to vinyl for years and although often pleased by the sound of my records is not that often that the sound quality has impressed me as much. This is my first ever 45 rpm album and it definitively has changed my perception of what an audiophile release is. The sound is the cleanest and purest, the instruments separation is amazing, and each instrument is just so clear... I have quite a few of the Wax Time well made and very good value for money recent vinyl reissues but this ORG release is just miles above. No frills packaging but the best possible sound and that is what an audiophile product means. This is expensive indeed, but the skills, love and passion of the engineers and producers of this reissue must really be praised. All in all, most probably this is the best reissue on vinyl of this album currently available. One last thing to add: probably a top cartridge will also make a difference. My Koetsu Jade has never sung so happy...
on 1 May 2010
The recording just before a love Supreme & probably his best! Not as heavy as later recordings & is more listener friendly. All members of the Quartet have something positive to say.
Although not as well known as other recordings this is a MUST.Crescent