WHERE TO BEGIN WITH… John Coltrane (jazz)
Fact: the jazz world is essentially difficult to read. John Coltrane has been one of the first jazzmen to introduce us to this major movement of music. Did you know that jazz is the oldest form of music that is still active and evolving? You should. Worry not: you will soon learn much more with this guide.
Let’s have a few minutes with The Wise One’s short but impressive career and discover your next rudiments.
John Coltrane - My Favorite Things (My Favorite Things, 1961)
Often defined as Coltrane’s bridge to broad acceptance, My Favorite Things is a major gateway for anyone wanting to get into his rich catalog.
Written by Oscar Hammerstein II for the movie The Sound of Music, My Favorite Things is a milestone for modal jazz (shared with Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue).
Our recent and favorite rendition was played a few weeks ago at the Blue Note Cafe by DOMi, Daryl Johns & JD Beck. Listen here.
John Coltrane - Giant Steps (Giant Steps, 1960)
Giant Steps is popularly believed to be “The most feared song in jazz”. Compulsory step for musicians in quest of theoretical and technical mastery, Giant Steps was originally composed as the first piece of three movements. Fortunately for the musicians in presence (struggling pianist Tommy Flanagan’s solo even became a meme), only two were recorded. The second movement is called Countdown and can be found on the same record. Here’s a powerful and sexy live rendition by pianist Brad Mehldau.
To go further with the complexity of the song, see Coltrane Changes. A little music theory never hurts.
John Coltrane - Greensleeves (alternate take, Africa/Brass sessions, 1961)
According to the (controversed) legend, Greensleeves finds its roots in the Middle Ages and was presumably written by Henry VIII. One thing is for sure: Coltrane’s version is a masterpiece. We tend to like the alternate take more, especially thanks to McCoy Tyner’s legendary voicings and Coltrane’s most spontaneous solo.
Bonus track : Alice Coltrane - Something About John Coltrane (featuring Pharoah Sanders, Journey In Satchidananda, 1970)
Alice Coltrane married John Coltrane in 1965 and started playing with him in 1966. The song Something About John Coltrane is our personal high in terms of spiritual music. Alice and Pharoah Sanders took part in the (in)famous Olatunji Concert in 1970, and this recording shows a more delicate and sensitive side of their collaboration and respective talents.
Written by Marc Louis-Boyard for Slow Culture.
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