Wednesday, November 23, 2011

John Coltrane - Ballads

Throughout John Coltrane's discography there are a handful of decisive and controversial albums that split his listening camp into factions. Generally, these occur in his later-period works such as Om and Ascension, which push into some pretty heady blowing. As a contrast, Ballads is often criticized as too easy and as too much of a compromise between Coltrane and Impulse! (the two had just entered into the first year of label representation). Seen as an answer to critics who found his work complicated with too many notes and too thin a concept, Ballads has even been accused of being a record that Coltrane didn't want to make. These conspiracy theories (and there are more) really just get in the way of enjoying a perfectly fine album of Coltrane doing what he always did -- exploring new avenues and modes in an inexhaustible search for personal and artistic enlightenment. With Ballads he looks into the warmer side of things, a path he would take with both Johnny Hartman (on John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman) and with Duke Ellington (on Duke Ellington and John Coltrane). Here he lays out for McCoy Tyner mostly, and the results positively shimmer at times. He's not aggressive, and he's not outwardly. Instead he's introspective and at times even predictable, but that is precisely Ballads' draw. - by Sam Samuelson, AMG

A musician's viruosity on his/her instrument of choice may be measured in many ways -- chiefly, I suppose, in the ability to make that instrument pour forth the notes that are in the musician's mind, slow or fast, loudly or softly, as the music being performed requires. Many musicians have been blessed with the ability to take this up a notch -- they miraculously transmit what they are feeling in their soul as they perform into the notes and phrases that the audience hears. John Coltrane was nothing short of a genius by the time he recorded these pieces -- joined by some of the finest musicians who ever played with him. Coltrane had learned the artistry of silence and restraint, coupling it with his sheer instrumental ability, bringing his music to a level rarely equalled before or since. This recording was begun in December of 1961 and finished in November 0f 1962 -- 40 years have passed, and it is still one of the premier jazz recordings ever made. The tunes on this recording are standards -- they were already classic examples of songwriting when Coltrane recorded them. His own compositions were without question groundbreaking, moving expressions of a man with deep feelings of spirituality and an unquenchable urge for exploration -- but when John Coltrane took these standards into his heart and played them out through his saxophone, they became his. This grouping was to become known as his quintisential quartet: McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass) and Elvin Jones (drums) [Reggie Workman is heard on bass on track 7 only]. These four men had a playing empathy that most others only dream of. Every recording they made together shows stunning, unbelievable interplay -- and such respect for each other. After 40 years of listening to music of all types and genres, I can't think of any group more suited to playing together. I've been listening to this recording a lot lately, having been reminded of its lasting greatness by Karrin Allyson's vocal tribute recording of the same tracks (a fine recording also -- check it out). I was discussing the two albums one day at Waterloo Records with a friend who has worked there for many years -- he remarked that 'this is the album I sell to people who tell me they don't like jazz'. Far from being any sort of put-down of Coltrane -- for I know how much my friend admires his work -- it speaks to the universality of his appeal, his ability to touch literally ANYONE with an ear with the genius he possessed. - by Larry Looney,

Artist: John Coltrane Quartet
Album: Ballads
Year: 1962
Label: Impulse! (1987)
Runtime: 32:16

1.  Say It (Over and Over Again) (Frank Loesser/Jimmy McHugh) 4:19
2.  You Don't Know What Love Is (Gene DePaul/Don Raye) 5:15
3.  Too Young to Get Steady (Harold Adamson/Jimmy McHugh) 4:23
4.  All or Nothing at All (Arthur Altman/Jack Lawrence) 3:38
5.  I Wish I Knew (Mack Gordon/Harry Warren) 4:54
6.  What's New (Johnny Burke/Bob Haggart) 3:47
7.  It's Easy to Remember (Lorenz Hart/Richard Rodgers) 2:49
8.  Nancy (with the Laughing Face) (Phil Silvers/Jimmy Van Heusen) 3:11

John Coltrane (Tenor Saxophone)
McCoy Tyner (Piano)
Jimmy Garrison (Double Bass)
Elvin Jones (Drums)


  1. One of the most bluesy Trane records! And so peaceful... and so strong. Music for soul. I've been listening for Coltrane for more than 40 years, bought and bought and bought again his records 'cause they were used... And I go on discovering sounds I didn't guess for all these years. THE music for my whole life...

  2. Thank you. And I will listen to it side-by-side with the Karin Allyson covers.

  3. thank you very much!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...