"My Favorite Things" is an important milestone in John Coltrane's all-too-brief but indisputably stellar career. It marks the point where, after years of playing second fiddle to Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and others from whom he learned so much, he finally formed and led his own quartet and began to carve out that distinctive Trane sound. One of the tragedies for 20th century music is that only 7 years later, Trane died of cancer at age 40 whilst still in the full flush of his musical prime.
The album contains only four pieces, kicking off with the title track. If you know the cheesy but enormously successful 1965 Rogers and Hammerstein film "The Sound of Music" and hate it with a passion, don't be put off by the fact that Trane's young quartet lifts one of its best-known songs (in 1960 it was only a stage musical playing on Broadway) as the title-track. Richard Rodgers' original melody is the start-point: the band ups the tempo and re-works the piece with vision and creative brilliance into something extraordinary. Devoid of lyrics, Trane's sublime soprano sax substitutes for the vocal line and alternates with the superlative piano skills of McCoy Tyner to weave a driving, listener-involving improvisation on the basic melody for more than 10 minutes: the result bears little resemblance to the simplistic song from the original musical and reinforces the oft-quoted contention that in jazz, the basic source material can be almost anything and the musician interpreting and improvising on the piece is everything that matters. Listen to this a couple of times and Julie Andrews' Sister Maria will never sound the same again, I promise.
"Every Time We Say Goodbye" calms down the mood with a slower tempo which allows the band to stretch out more. Trane fills this lyrical piece with long cascades of notes, stays close to the melody and at the same time introduces a new dynamic which is (don't mean this to sound pretentious, but...) almost spiritually sublime. He played sax like an expressive singer might use his voice.
"Summertime" follows the style of the title track in upping the tempo of Gershwin's famous tune, infusing energy and dynamic inventiveness. The interplay between the members of the band is most evident here, as everyone joins in the party and becomes involved. Contrast what Trane's quartet does with this piece with Miles' cleaner, more relaxed take on his Gil Evans collaboration "Porgy and Bess".
In "But Not for Me," again the tempo is increased and a complex tapestry of improvisation is woven towards darker and moodier territory than usually inhabited by Gershwin's original. As always the band is tight and intuitive, creating the feeling in the listener of a restless soul in self-analysis, interlocking and interplaying until the conflict is resolved.
This band sure could play, and they're great to listen to. Relaxing - probably not, but enjoyable and rewarding - definitely. As a counterpoint and compliment to "Kind of Blue" (the one jazz album everyone in the world should have in their music collection) you couldn't do better. MFT is more insistent, focussed, daring; one feels Trane often has to reel himself in from a kind of spirit-possession to bring these extraordinary and groundbreaking musical journeys to orderly conclusion.
There is a story that Trane once asked advice from Miles Davis about the best way to disengage from extensive improvisation on the sax and come back to the melody, how to end the "soul possession" of the journey and return to ground. Miles is said to have thought for a moment and then, ever the grounded, practical minimalist, famously declared: "Just take the mother...... out of your mouth."
This classic album by the great saxophonist John Coltrane(1926-67) was recorded at the prolific sessions in New York City during October, 1960 which also produced the ATLANTIC albums 'Coltrane Plays The Blues' and 'Coltrane's Sound'. With Coltrane(tenor & soprano sax) were pianist McCoy Tyner; bassist Steve Davis & drummer Elvin Jones who'd recently joined Coltrane's band. Coltrane's playing is powerful and intensely moving supported by a superb rhythm section on four standards. Highlight, inevitably, is Trane's hypnotic 13-minute soprano work-out on 'My Favorite Things' which he returned to repeatedly for the rest of his career. There's also a fine version of Gershwin's 'Summertime' with Trane on tenor. 'My Favorite Things' still sounds fresh and exhilarating over 50 years later and is an essential item in any Coltrane collection.
I remember my dad getting this album in the late 1960s. I heard the opening of the title track and thought it was such an uncool song to cover, the movie version of Sound of Music had only been out for handful of years and I had no real knowledge or understanding of the chronology of stage musical, Coltrane's recording and the movie. The result was that at the beginning I just heard a fairly straight cover of a "Julie Andrews son". Then Coltrane starts of improvise on the theme and the reason for covering the song becomes clear. Listening to this album taught me so much about jazz and how standards are just a vehicle for the artist to improvise around.
The other tracks on here are equally fertile ground in the Coltrane Quartet's hands, Every Time We Say Goodbye, Summertime and But Not For Me are also handled brilliantly. The band are just on fire here (not literally as football commentators would have it) and I soon came to appreciate that this was one cool jazz album.
I moved on to other forms of music where the jazz that I listened to was either European jazz of the ECM school or electric fusion such as Weather Report, Return to Forever and the like. In my ignorance I had not quite realised the connections to Miles Davis and tangentially to Coltrane. Later in life I did have few jazz albums but in 1996, when I was starting to build my CD collection I read about the death of Gerry Mulligan, and his role in The Birth of the Cool, I started to collect jazz albums more seriously. I approached Miles Davis and Coltrane cautiously at first and put off getting this album for a while, getting into various Impulse albums like Crescent, Africa/Brass, Sun Ship and the like before I bought My Favourite Things, it was like returning to a place I had longed for for years. If you were to argue over the best jazz album ever then this would be a strong contender alongside Kind Of Blue obviously, which also features Coltrane and a few others. My currnet favourite is Free Fall. If you don't yet have My Favourite Things and you are looking at this page, and therefore at least a bit interested, then you must buy this album now! In my music collection this is my favourite thing.
If you think you might like modern jazz, you're into the more improvisational side of rock music, but... you're not too sure where to start then invest in the studio recording of "My Favourite Things". Great melodies, with enough reference points to keep pulling you back on track, coupled with superb improvisations that push you into areas of more free form jazz without testing your tolerance.
Alongside Miles Davis' "Kind Of Blue", Horace Silver's "Song For My Father" and Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder" - "My Favourite Things" is a marvellous "jazz primer" and a timeless piece of controlled improvisation.
If you're not impressed then don't waste your money on trying to find other, more suitable, jazz tracks... they don't come any better.
As the other reviewers have said Coltrane is wonderful on this CD, but what impressed me even more was McCoy Tyner's solo on the title track. In nearly fifty years of listening to recorded jazz I can recall few solos which have made such an immediate and lasting impression. It is as if time simply stands still while he plays. This solo is right up there with the likes of Berigan on "I can't get started" or Bix in "Singin' the blues". Great stuff!
What a great record this is. For some time I'm trying to uncover the mystery called John Coltrane his talend and all that. Few words about this record. Attention I'm not trying here to make a review of John I'll talk simply about this record. As you see you get 4 tracks. The only thing I can say is that from track one tears come to your eyes I don't know why It's a mystery! This is truly a great record from the beginning you get the shivers of the clarinet. If you like Coltrane you must get this if you like jazz this is a good record for you allthough you will find this on the way!