This is one of the latest of Membran's cheap "no frills" offerings, taking advantage of the EU 50 year copyright expiry. Some of their previous offerings have been a bit hit or miss. The Parker for example, is now the best available introduction and is in more or less chronological order. Whereas the Mingus "Mysterious Blues" collection of his earliest tracks, although containing rare and valuable material, looks as though it was compiled by a teenager on 'job experience'!
No worries here though - this one is meticulous, even if missing session details. It covers 'Trane's earliest sides sides for Prestige in 1956, under his own name or in "All Star" sessions, up to September 1957. Prestige was known as the "junkies' label", where players would record a session with minimal rehearsal for a fixed fee. It looks like initially they took no risks with 'Trane's reliability as the earliest sessions were "All Star" affairs pairing him with at least one other tenor player, and often a trumpeter, presumably on the basis that someone would show up and the studio time would not be wasted.
Whatever the reason it served him well at that time. In fact the first CD and about half the second have him with Hank Mobley and Donald Byrd (from the 'Two Tenors" date - originally released under pianist Elmo Hope's name).
All of the "Tenor Conclave" session is included in discs 1 and 2 - this time with Cohn and Sims as well as Mobley.
Even at this stage Trane is clearly moving in a different direction and takes a few more risks than the others, pushing the edges of his own technical limits of the time. Of course it all only serves to him make him sound even more interesting! Mobley in particular suffers time and again by sounding conservative, even a throwback, in comparison (It happened again in 1961 on Miles' "Someday My Prince Will Come"). Sensibly, Coltrane solos after him on almost every track. Rollins fares better on disc 2 on the "Tenor Madness" duet - He clearly had developed his style in the previous 4 years.
It's interesting that Rollins, although about 4 years younger, had come to prominence as a soloist about 4 years before Trane, basically from age 21 or 22. My own take on this is that Rollins was born and lived in NYC and was "around" constantly when Parker and Miles were developing the new music, whereas Trane was in Philadelphia and spend a lot more time touring with blues (like Vinson) and 'popular music' bands (eg Bostic), and only began recording as a soloist at age 30.
Paul Quinichette, who appears on a few tracks, also sounds like a throwback and lacking in presence, just as he had with Parker in the 40s.
Also hidden away on these 10 discs are 2 of my favourite Trane dates from the time - "Traneing In" (originally under Red Garland's name) and "Blue Train" - the Blue Note sextet date on which he first showed is chops as a composer. But there's much more than this here, including the studio sessions with Monk from 1957, and (worth the price alone!) the recently-discovered Carnegie Hall concert with Monk.
None of the '55 and '56 Miles' quintet sessions are included, but most of these are included Membran's excellent Miles' 10 CD "Just Squeeze Me" (you'll need to add a copy of Miles' "Cookin" for 'completeness').
All in all an excellent set and a far less expensive alternative to Concord's "Fearless Leader" box.
Just a thought: There should be enough excellent material in Trane's remaining 18 month Prestige tenure, (the EU copyright of which expires this year!) to fill another 10 CD set! ...Please!!!!Just Squeeze MeWalkin'