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This review is from: Giant Steps (Audio CD)
'Giant Steps' overturned many of the stereotypes I had about post-war (more specifically 1950's) jazz. From most of the movies I've seen from that era, jazz was wallpaper music, bland background to the cliches on the screen. Imagine how I felt when I first put on 'Giant Steps'. This is definitely not "easy-listening".
The energized melody of the title track bursts from the record in a relentless attack. The imagination of Coltrane's playing can best be heard on 'Cousin Mary' where he begins with swing before taking the melody on a world tour from the blues to the Far East. 'Countdown' sounds initially like uncomprimising free-jazz but there is a strong rhythm behind it that you can even snap your fingers to and there isn't a more delightful moment on the album than it's whistful ending. Coltrane's playing on the second version included here is even more astounding.
Coltrane takes us on another journey back and forth between jazz's past and future with 'Spiral', swaying between a swinging tempo and a halting, Eastern-thinged descent. It's emotional intensity is a staple of this remarkable album. On 'Syeeda's Song Flute' the master gives the other players a chance to shine with Tommy Flanagan's playing unthinkably cool and unrelenting at the same time. The track segues ponderously into 'Naima' where Flanagan again comes to the fore with some of his most personal playing, while the saxophone smoulders.
'Mr. PC' combines all the best of John Coltrane and the backing trio on this album. His heady mixture of old-time jazz, swing and his own intense improvisations conspire to deliver a hothouse performance with the other players driving hard behind him.
'Giant Steps' is an album that any serious music lover should have in their collection, artistic, cerebral and emotional all at the same time.