Disc spine and cardboard slipcase reads "The Ultimate Blue Train". Remastered with previously unreleased bonus tracks (6 & 7) and a multimedia CD-ROM portion (retrospective interviews from engineer Rudy Van Gelder and a brief black-and-white video where Coltrane is performing with Miles Davis onstage)
Recorded September 15, 1957 at the Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey.
How do you improve upon an already classic recording? By adding alternate takes and a CD-ROM program to the original issue. The newly added alternate takes of "Blue Train" (whose piano solo was lifted and spliced into the familiar master take) and "Lazy Bird" are welcome discoveries. The numerous photographs from the session and excerpts of a July 1995 interview with trombonist Curtis Fuller (the only surviving musician from this historic recording session) make this new enhanced CD well worth acquiring, even if you have the earlier CD. Audio interview excerpts from interviews with Kenny Burrell, Tommy Flanagan, Johnny Griffin, Roy Haynes, Archie Shepp, and others are also included.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
In the fertile decade from the mid-fifties to the mid-sixties, there was a proliferation of brilliant albums in jazz. "Blue Train", which Coltrane often referred to as his favorite album of his own work, was more than that; it was a perfect album. The ingre dients for such alchemy cannot be quantified anymore than genius can be defined and described. But we know it when we hear it.
In late 1956 or early 1957, John Coltrane went up to Blue Note's offices to ask Alfred Lion for some Sidney Bechet albums (this was four years before he would pick up the soprano saxophone himself). He and Alfred talked about a record deal, but Francis Wolff, who handled the artist contracts, had gone for the day. Coltrane took his Bechet LPs and a small advance, saying that he would come back in a few days. He didn't, and the whole incident seemed forgotten.
In early 1957, Coltrane signed with Prestige Records. But he'd remembered the discussion with Alfred and the advance and insisted upon making an album for Blue Note to honor his commitment. The rhythm section that he selected was pianist Kenny Drew and his bandmates from the Miles Davis quintet: Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. This quartet had recorded "Chambers' Music" the year before in LA under Paul Chambers' name for Aladdin's Jazz West label. It's not known whether it was Coltrane or Alfred Lion who added Lee Morgan and Curtis Fuller, both recent Blue Note sign-ings, to the front line.
Whatever the circumstances, Coltrane enjoyed the Blue Note luxury of paid rehearsals and wrote four brilliant tunes, all of which have become jazz standards. When it came time for the recording, these six empathetic master musicians had a firm grasp of the material at hand. The recording session was pure magic and Blue Note perfection. The music had a rarified air, and everyone's solo was worthy of transcription. Blue Note's greatest achievement was setting up situations in which both perfection and inspiration were attainable AND achieved. "Blue Train" is a classic case in point. Compare it to Coltrane's voluminous output at Prestige that same year.
Curtis Fuller still jokes about "Moment's Notice", which he named because they recorded it under just those circumstances. "I've been with younger musicians trying to work out that tune. And I tell them that that's just how we did it...on a moment's notice." That was Curtis first summer in New York, and Blue Note had not only signed him to his own deal, but also gave him the opportunity to be the only recorded trombone soloist with Trane, Bud Powell and Jimmy Smith.
For this definitive version of "Blue Train", two alternate takes have been added. Both immediately preceded the master take at the session. A word of explanation is necessary about the alternate take of the title tune. The master take, as issued, is take 9 with the piano solo from take 8. While take 8 has some very different and formidable playing, it did not occur to me until recently to restore the piano solo taken out of it and make it a whole alternate take. The actual piano solo from take 9 has not survived, but here we've restored take 8 to its original form, thus repeating the piano solo used on the LP.
This is a most astonishing album that has influenced musicians for 40 years. It's not uncommon to walk into a bar and find a 45 of "Blue Train" parts one and two on a juke box, and regulars who can hum along with every note. This music is eternal. We hope that this enhanced CD with graphics and interviews and improved sound does this monument justice.
- Michael Cuscuna (1996)