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For completists only.
on 21 March 2013
Reattributing recording sessions - when a sideman becomes more famous than the leaders under which he previously recorded, sometimes the latters' sessions are re-issued under the former's name - is rather common in jazz, but John Coltrane seems to be the musician to which this happens the most, largely because he A) has become so famous and B) recorded a lot in 1957-58.
All the recordings on this set date from this period, and although Coltrane plays throughout half of them aren't Coltrane albums; on many of them he was just a sideman or at best co-leader: the proper leaders for half the albums here being Kenny Burrell (...& John Coltrane), Johhny Griffin (A Blownin' Session), Red Garland (All Mornin' Long) and Elmo Hope (Informal Jazz). This doesn't make the music bad by any means (with the possible exception of Hope, these are all well-known and well-thought of jazz musicians), and some of these albums might actually be unavailable outside this set - but it's a real stretch to call these Coltrane Albums, and rather unfair and insulting to the musicians whose brainchild these sessions really were to attribute them to Coltrane for marketing purposes (for better or worse, the Coltrane name sells better than Red Garland!).
The other half of the albums here are Coltrane-led, but, with the exception of Traneing In, consist of miscellaneous sessions collected and released by Prestige after Coltrane left (in 1958) and released without his input or approval. "The Last Trane" is a particularly egrerious example of this, being a compilation of three unrelated recording sessions. Traneing In is the only "proper" Coltrane album here, the only one which Coltrane himself designed and approved.
Of course, neither this nor the fact that Coltrane wasn't even leader on half these sessions doesn't invalidate the music on these sessions. It's just that this are not important sessions in the Coltrane story, like Giant Steps, Africa/Brass, A Love Supreme etc... There's lots of good stuff here, but this set can hardly be considered an "essential" Coltrane collection: what it actually is is a collection of early and formative sideman work, fascinating and useful in its way, but of more interest to completists than to casual listeners or those approaching Coltrane for the first time. Perfectly good on its own terms, but there are higher-priority purchases. The Vol. 2 set from the same people contains far more of Coltrane's own, significant releases.