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.
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.