John Coltrane

Box Sets

Phases and Stages

John Coltrane

Live Trane: European Tours (Pablo) If you were to walk into a club or concert hall today and hear a saxophonist blow with the passion, inventiveness, and unmitigated ferocity that John Coltrane demonstrates throughout this 7-CD box set, you'd be mesmerized. The fact that Coltrane and his colleagues, most notably pianist McCoy Tyner, were creating this maelstrom of sound and ideas 40 years ago, makes it all the more incredible. These sides, which include a healthy batch of previously unreleased material, document portions of three European tours from 1961-63, the first of which occurred merely two weeks after the famed Live at the Village Vanguard dates. At this stage of Coltrane's rather short-lived career, the saxman had evolved from the "sheets of sound" period that earmarked his fruitful years with Miles Davis and classic albums like Giant Steps. Now, he was embarking on the noble quest for spiritual enlightenment. From this point on, Coltrane's music took on an increasingly passionate, religious-like fervor as he employed Eastern modalities and a single-minded vision to stretch the boundaries of emotional expression and physical stamina. These sides are often breathtaking in their intensity and virtuosity. Multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy augments the standard quartet as a foil on the earlier tracks, but even he is left in a cloud of dust at times. The young Tyner shines at every turn, often stretching out on long, powerful excursions that amp the energy level onto which Coltrane would launch off into the stratosphere. One might question the need for seven CDs and at least a half-dozen different versions of "My Favorite Things," ranging from 12 to 29 minutes in length. Then again, when the music reaches this level of such profound truth, it's hard not to savor every last note.

**** .5

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