If it’s a John Coltrane fix you need, two August releases will set you right up.
On August 6, Mosaic Records will release The Complete Sun Ship Session, which includes newly discovered and previously unissued alternate takes from one of the final studio sessions by the John Coltrane Quartet. The three-LP set will also be made available on a two-disc set through Verve Records on April 16.
Sun Ship, recorded August 26, 1965, captures one of the last sessions by the classic John Coltrane Quartet (Coltrane, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones). The Sun Ship album, though, was not issued until 1971, one of several Coltrane albums issued by Impulse Records after his death. And Sun Ship was, like many jazz albums, the product of editing between takes, a process overseen by John’s widow, Alice.
“This Complete Sun Ship Session edition is much more,” writes David Wild in the liner notes. “Sourced from newly discovered original reels, the set includes the album’s five original compositions, unedited, in sequence of recording, with all of the takes as they evolved, as well as the surrounding conversations. More than just a sampling of a few alternate takes, The Complete Sun Ship Session offers a rare opportunity to eavesdrop on an iconic master at work.”
In other Coltrane news, the Concord Music Group will reissue a remastered and expanded edition of the saxophonist’s Afro Blue Impressions album on August 30. The two-CD set, which includes three bonus tracks and new liner notes, celebrates the 40th anniversary of Pablo Records, the label founded by Norman Granz in 1973. After releasing more than 350 albums in a span of less than 15 years, Granz sold Pablo to Fantasy in 1987, which in turn merged with Concord Records in 2004 to form Concord Music Group.
Afro Blue Impressions represents an anniversary within an anniversary. By the time Granz launched Pablo in 1973, he’d already stockpiled several years worth of previously recorded tour performances in his vaults, including these sets from Stockholm and Berlin in late 1963 (October and November, respectively). This new two-disc reissue of the classic Coltrane Pablo album — originally released as a double-LP in 1977 — arrives just a few weeks ahead of the 50th anniversary of the original concerts.
Coltrane fronts a stellar quartet on both European dates that includes McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. In addition to the nine tracks that appeared in the original Afro Blue Impressions double album, the reissue also includes three bonus tracks from the Stockholm date: “Naima,” “I Want To Talk About You” and “My Favorite Things.”
“These tracks brim with the wonder and the power of discovery,” writes Neil Tesser, author of the new liner notes accompanying the reissue. “At this juncture, the Coltrane Quartet existed in a state analogous to quantum mechanics. … Each new performance yielded new insights. As the musicians gathered this data and sifted through it, they would arrive at the polished theories underlying the eventual masterworks to come, such as the album Crescent and the monumental suite A Love Supreme — achievements that would then launch a new age of chaotic discovery, on such albums as Om, Sun Ship and Meditations. How much those recordings will resonate on their 50th anniversaries will likely engender some controversy; Coltrane didn’t live long enough to complete the journey that began with them, and the jury remains out, even decades later, regarding the impact of that work. But history long ago weighed the import of his work in 1963, when his music stretched and struggled its way toward becoming Coltrane’s iconic stylistic statement.”
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