Published Mar 26, 2019Reissue packages featuring jazz greats like John Coltrane are, if nothing else, an opportunity to celebrate some of the 20th century's genuinely advanced artists. The North Carolina-born saxophonist was as next-level as it gets. He continues to bring new listeners to the great American art form more than half a century after his passing.
Craft Recordings' packaging of his eight sessions laid down during the last year of his Prestige contract is a good deal more than a modest 60th anniversary celebration. Beautifully remastered on 180-gram vinyl at Record Technology Inc., from the original analogue tapes, Coltrane '58 is exactly the kind of deep dive this particular artist at that particular time deserves.
All of this material — more than five-and-a-half hours' worth — was recorded by Rudy Van Gelder at the New Jersey studio he built in his parent's living room. The collection features Kenny Burrell (guitar), Donald Byrd (trumpet), Paul Chambers (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums), Tommy Flanagan (piano), Red Garland (piano), Wilbur Harden (trumpet, flugelhorn), Louis Hayes (drums), Art Taylor (drums) and a 20-year-old Freddie Hubbard (trumpet).
Coltrane came into his own as a band leader over the course of 1958. He'd had one release on the label in 1957; Coltrane (later reissued as The First Trane!) featured Chambers, Garland, Johnnie Splawn, Sahib Shihab, Mal Waldron and Albert "Tootie" Heath. That was joined a year later by John Coltrane with the Red Garland Trio and Soultrane, both featuring Garland, Chambers and Taylor.
These sessions opened the floodgates. In addition to Soultrane, recorded in February of '58, the material in this box filled sides on Lush Life, The Last Trane, The Believer, Settin' the Pace, Black Pearls, Standard Coltrane, Stardust, Bahia and a shared title with co-leader Kenny Burrell.
There are too many highlights to recount here. The Jan. 3 session features Coltrane on a borrowed alto saxophone. As the story goes, he was meant to play tenor, but his was in for repairs. Coltrane's fourth session, on Mar. 7, proved to be his last as a sideman for Prestige.
The July 11 date is described as a "gruelling session" in Carl Woideck's marvellous notes accompanying John Coltrane: The Prestige Recordings, released in 1991 by Fantasy, Inc. Material used on his last three albums for the label came out of that date.
Remarkably, this isn't all he did that year. The prolific sax legend had re-joined Miles Davis early in 1958. By the time he'd wrapped his last sessions with Van Gelder on Dec. 26, he'd fronted or taken part in recordings on 20 separate occasions.
Besides the remastering work and a detailed 40-page book with notes and photography, it is producer Nick Phillips' decision to present the recordings chronologically that is key to this collection's value proposition. Hearing the material organized for the first time by session, as opposed to original LP release, provides additional perspective on a master entering his prime. (Craft Recordings)