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Indispensable Landmark of Jazz History which may become one of your favourite things,
This review is from: My Favorite Things (Audio CD)
"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."