Three of the four lengthy performances on this CD are taken from one of the John Coltrane Quartet's greatest performances: the 1963 Newport Jazz Festival. With pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Roy Haynes (filling in for an absent Elvin Jones), Coltrane performs what is arguably his greatest version of "My Favorite Things" along with memorable renditions of "Impressions" and "I Want to Talk About You." Two of those selections originally appeared on the LP Selflessness while "Impression" was included in a later collection. This set is rounded out by "Chasin' Another Trane," the only recording from 'Trane's famous Nov. 1961 engagement at the Village Vanguard that had Roy Haynes sitting in for Elvin Jones; altoist Eric Dolphy is also heard from on that heated selection.
- Scott Yanow (All Music Guide)
========= from the cover ==========
"Roy Haynes is one of the best drummers I've ever worked with. I always tried to get him when Elvin Jones wasn't able to make it. There's a difference between them. Elvin's feeling was a driving force. Roy's was more of a spreading, a permeating. Well, they both have a way of spreading the rhythm, but they're different. They're both very accomplished. You can feel what they're doing and get with it."
-John Coltrane. 1966
"When I worked with Trane - I'll tell you this, the intensity was so high...it stayed high. So I stayed with the intensity. I didn't necessarily play differently than I would normally play, but John's solos were longer, and I didn't want to play the same thing throughout his solo, so I'd have to think of more things and get ideas from what he was playing. When I'm with Trane. I don't want to let him down - I want to keep him inspired."
-Roy Haynes. 1966
In the summer of 1960. after launching his career as a bandleader with an eight-week engagement at the Jazz Gallery, on St. Mark's Place in Lower Manhattan. John Coltrane was still searching for the right combination. All bands, with the exception of the Modem Jazz Quartet and only a handful of others, have their comings and goings, but Coltrane's was especially unsettled after Just a few months in existence. He had the pianist he'd wanted all along in McCoy Tyner, who'd replaced original member Steve Kuhn. The rest of the lineup was in flux. The group's bassist was Steve Davis, a buddy of Coltrane's from Philadelphia with whom he was growing increasingly dissatisfied. Coltrane's misgivings about Davis weren't just musical. During an engagement in late August at the Jazz Workshop, in San Francisco. Coltrane confided to a friend that he suspected Davis of "pinching" (shooting heroin), and was thinking of replacing him with Leroy Vinnegar. a bassist billed as "Jazz's Greatest Walker" on one of his LPs. Coltrane apparently never got around to making Vinnegar an offer, and chances are that Vinnegar - then much in demand in the Los Angeles recording studios - would have been reluctant to go on the road anyway. Even so, Davis was gone five months later, replaced by Reggie Workman, who himself gave way to Jimmy Garrison approximately a year later - but not before Coltrane experimented with using both Workman and Garrison (and. on a few record dates. Workman and Art Davis). Although it wasn't until the summer of 1961 that Eric Dolphy began to perform with the band ("I'd felt at ease with a quartet until then." Coltrane subsequently explained to Don DeMichael. of Down Beat), Coltrane had perhaps toyed with the idea of adding a second horn to the front line as early as the previous fall, when he'd asked a friend who worked for John Levy's management company to find out Lee Morgan's weekly salary as a Jazz Messenger. He also offered the Job to Booker Little, who was already too ill to accept. Coltrane's interest in Morgan and Vinnegar suggests that he was initially unsure of what direction he wanted his band to pursue: despite the increasing length and questing nature of his own solos, a band with Morgan on trumpet. Vinnegar on bass. Billy Higgins on drums, and - later-Wes Montgomery on guitar might have evolved into another of the period's tastefully funky hardbop units. Or such a band might have split up over irreconcilable differences after Just a few gigs, leaving Coltrane to wander the country as a soloist at the mercy of a local rhythm section on each stop. But none of this is here or there. Coltrane's biggest dilemma as a fledgling bandleader was finding the right drummer. Pete LaRoca. whom Coltrane had hired largely on the recommendations of Kuhn and the still-in-seciusion Sonny Rollins, had manned the traps at. the Jazz Gallery and on the band's first few dates out of town. Unhappy with LaRoca. Coltrane had next hired Higgins, the drummer in the Ornette Coleman Quartet that had sent New York into shock the previous winter. But Higgins, too, proved not to be the answer. As Coltrane explained the problem to a friend, he and Tyner instinctively phrased on the. beat or Just ahead of it. whereas Higgins instinctively lagged behind. Despite everyone's best efforts, the combination Just wasn't working out.
Jones was the man who Coltrane had in mind for the Job all along. They had first played together, with Miles Davis, at a club in Philadelphia a few years earlier (Elvin was subbing for Philly Joe Jones, who was ducking a police warrant). "At the end of the week. John told me that he was thinking of starting his own band soon, and asked would I be interested in Joining him." Jones recently recalled. "I told him all he had to do was call me."
When Coltrane finally put out the call in the spring of 1960. Jones was serving a prison sentence for possession of heroin and committed to rejoining Harry "Sweets" Edison's band after his release. Jones finally caught up with the Coltrane quartet in Denver, in September, on its swing back to the east coast from California and stayed with it for six years. In addition to primal energy and almost-superhuman endurance, he possessed a dexterity that enabled him to superimpose meters with the same sophistication evident in Coltrane's superimposition of chords and scales. If ever two musicians were made for each other, they were Coltrane and Elvin Jones.
Jones's continuing drug problems presented the only hitch. When the first three performances on this CD were recorded in the summer of 1963. Jones was undergoing mandatory rehab at Lexington. Coltrane's choice as his replacement was Roy Haynes, a consummate drummer who. at that point, was inevitably described as a "veteran," although he was then still three years shy of forty. Haynes. a native of Boston, had begun his career with the big bands of Sabby Lewis and Luis Russell in the late 1940s, and had gone on to accompany everyone from Sarah Vaughan to LennieTristano. Bud Powell, and Thelonious Monk. In terms of Haynes's suitability to Coltrane, though, perhaps his most important associations were Lester Young, Charlie Parker, and Stan Getz. "He knew I had played with the great saxophonists. Charlie Parker and Lester Young."
Haynes said during a recent phone conversation. "Coltrane was from Philly. and I used to run into him there from the time I was with Charlie Parker - maybe as early as 1949, when I think [Coltrane] was still playing alto. So he was around a lot. but I hadn't played with him too much before I began filling in for Elvin. at least not that I remember. Coltrane would leave the question of what you were supposed to play up to you. There were certain things he wanted, but he wasn't much of a talker. I don't know if he was able to express what he wanted, but he knew, and you'd know, too, from listening to him. He himself listened to many different people, including me. In fact, I once had a trio with Eric Dolphy and Reggie Workman, and we used to play at a place in the Village that I don't remember the name of. This was when Coltrane was working the Vanguard. Every night, during our last set, I would see him sitting in the back listening to us. So he was more aware of me, in a sense, than I was of him." Asked to describe the difference between his work with Coltrane and Jones,' Haynes talked about providing a beat that was "elastic, in the way it stretches." and then quoted Coltrane on the same subject (the passage from a Down Beat interview quoted above). Finally, he said "I'm going to leave that alone! But I do know that Elvin was listening to me before I started listening to him."
Crisper in his accents but less polyrhythmic in approach than Jones, Haynes didn't surround Coltrane with rhythm in quite the same way that Jones did. His beats sometimes fall to Coltrane's left and sometimes to his right, but never in both places simultaneously. Nevertheless, on this CD's three Newport performances. Coltrane and Haynes spark together as brilliantly and with as much heat as Coltrane and Jones ever did, and Haynes's irregularly timed bass drum and snare accents during his duet with Coltrane toward the end of Impressions - his shifting of the basic pulse among the different parts of his kit, and his success in providing Coltrane with a rhythmic backdrop at once dense and elemental - amplify his own quote to Down Beat about the need he felt to match Coltrane stroke for stroke, and seizure for seizure. First released on an Impulse! two-fer in the late 1970s, these are electrifying performances - perhaps all the more so in light of their relative novelty.
Haynes is at a loss to explain his presence on the one performance here from the November. 1961 Village Vanguard session, except to guess that Jones might have shown up late for work on the night in question. Might McCoy Tyner also have been late that night? Or was Coltrane Just eager to go piano-less again, four months after recording for Atlantic with Ornette Coleman's sidemen? In effect. Chasin' Another Trane (first released on yet another late-seventies two-fer) gives us Coltrane tearing through a fast blues with the Roy Haynes trio he used to monitor in Greenwich Village. As is also true of its more celebrated counterpart, this performance owes a considerable measure of its power to the apparent contradiction of a soloist bent on exploring every nook and cranny of a handful of chords, yet foregoing a chording instrument.
The Newport performances - recorded because Bob Thiele wisely seized every opportunity to record Coltrane, but never really intended for immediate release - present us with another series of paradoxes, ones even more central to Coltrane's enduring mystique. Coltrane often spoke privately of his desire for a signature tune: "Something for the people." as he once put it, possibly meaning a chart hit on the order of Cannonball Adderley's recording of Nat Adderley's "Jive Samba," which Coltrane told a friend he'd once spent "a dollar's worth of dimes" playing over and over on a dinerjukebox. By July 1963. My Favorite Things, from The Sound of Musk, was a sort of Coltrane signature, and he had attempted to duplicate its success with "Green sleeves" and The Inchworm" (he would go on to record "Chim Chim Cheree," from Mary Poppins and "Feeling Good," from The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd, and one can imagine him eventually recognizing the modal potential of the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood.") Having scored with My Favorite Things, Coltrane might have been expected to go on playing the tune for live audiences almost exactly as he had on his 1960 recording of it, his interpretation becoming increasingly detached and perfunctory. But the deepened abstraction of the version here (and of the other live versions we have culminating with those from Japan and the Village Vanguard, from 1966) suggest that Coltrane was constitutionally incapable of just going through the motions. He demanded no less from his audiences than he did from himself, and you couldn't ask for a better definition of artistic integrity.
Coltrane's cadenza on this CD's I Want to Talk About You - as luminous in tone and as * raveled as the one he would record at Birdland three months later - illustrates a o paradox endemic to all of Coltrane's mature work, perhaps the greatest paradox of all: that music so absorbed with itself as music could also be so nakedly emotional. Coltrane put it all together, in more ways than one.
One last footnote to these performances. Bob Thiele remembers standing backstage with Stan Getz during Coltrane's set at Newport in 1963. "Stan listened to John and started to turn pale." Thiele says. "I thought, 'Jeez, this guy looks like he's going to have a heart attack.' He seemed to be thinking 'How am I going to follow that?" Only one problem with this story: Thiele's memory is playing tricks on him, because Getz wasn't on the bill at Newport that year. But I repeat the story here, exactly as it was told to me. not to demean Getz (a great saxophonist in his own right, whom Coltrane frequently named as an early favorite), but to suggest that following Coltrane is the daunting prospect still facing jazz improvisers 30 years later - and not Just fellow saxophonists.
- Francis Davis 1993