The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records

Jazz sides

Reissues & Box Sets

The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records

(Impulse!)

It wasn't just the distinctive orange-and-black spines and fold-out album covers that made Impulse LPs stand out from the rest of the jazz pack. In its 15-year heyday, from the early Sixties to the mid-Seventies, Impulse was best known for reflecting the social, cultural, and political turbulence of the era by championing the voices of black avant-garde musicians like Pharoah Sanders, Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, and especially John Coltrane. It was Coltrane who personified the label's dedication to a higher musical/spiritual axis and its foresight in documenting what came to be known in jazz as "The New Thing." But Impulse didn't restrict itself to these visionary artists; they also recorded old-school masters like Count Basie and Earl Hines, progressive mainstreamers Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, and Keith Jarrett, as well as soul jazz artists Ray Charles and Shirley Scott. Samples of all these styles are represented in this comprehensive 4-CD, 38-track Impulse primer that coincides with the release of jazz writer Ashley Kahn's book of the same name. The set begins with the orchestrations of Gil Evans from 1960 and ends with a meditative Alice Coltrane trio from the revitalized Impulse of 2004. In between are the absolute gems you might expect: Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments," Art Blakey's "Alamode," and "Acknowledgement" from Coltrane's A Love Supreme. In fact, Coltrane is generously represented as the project's title suggests. Pleasant surprises include Benny Carter's swingin' "Honeysuckle Rose," drummer Chico Hamilton with Charles Lloyd on the latter's "Forest Flower," all 32 minutes of Pharaoh Sander's volcanic "The Creator Has a Master Plan," Texas saxman John Handy's mid-Seventies radio hit "Hard Work," and guitarist Gabor Szabo's psych-jazz "Gypsy Queen," which influenced Carlos Santana. There's something for everyone, but it's Trane and his minions who hold sway.

****

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