No doubt, the name John Coltrane comes to mind, just after Lisa Simpson, when you think Jazz Saxophone. With an incredible storied career, cut short after his cancer diagnosis in 1967, John Coltrane contributed to legendary recordings with the likes of Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Duke Ellington.
From his humble beginning in North Carolina, Coltrane would go on to develop his own unique chord progressions, and pioneer the use of musical modes that would help bring about a post-modern jazz movement, cementing him as (arguably) the most significant saxophonist in music history.
Selections for the Straw Boss Playlist for this week include:
Blue Train (Blue Train, 1958)
The opening, and title track, to Coltrane’s most celebrated album is by far my favourite of the three selected for our playlist. While tracks like “Moment’s Notice” and “Lazy Bird” have gone on to become standards, Blue Train is an almost mysterious composition that reveals itself slowly. With constant moving parts and ever shifting focus from musician to musician, Blue Train is a song that demonstrates Coltrane’s ability as a composer and band leader.
Little Melonae (Miles & Coltrane, 1988)
Releases in 1988, Miles & Coltrane collects live recordings of the two in Miles’ “The First Great Quintet” from October 1955 thru to July 1958. While we all look to Kind of Blue of the benchmark for the talent these two masterclass musicians possessed and brought out in each other, Miles & Coltrane is a fascinating peak into the early work of two legends in the making.
Syeeda’s Song Flute (Giant Steps, 1960)
While Blue Train would be the album that first introduced the jazz world to “Coltrane Changes“, Giant Steps would be the album that Coltrane began to fully stretch and explore his unique chord progressions. Let’s just say “It’s not about the notes he’s playing, it’s about the notes he’s not playing”.