Recent listening, current

Monday, January 6, 2014

167. John Coltrane / Lush Life (1961)

While Prestige's Lush Life was not released until 1961, it was recorded by Van Gelder during three sessions in '57 and '58. As he was no longer recording for the label, Coltrane had no say in it but ironically, the record contains a few of his choicest recordings playing in the small group, hard bop setting. This was an incredibly fertile period for Coltrane. He had yet to compose the seminal works that later appeared on Blue Note and Atlantic but was already working on the technique and musical ideas that would define his legacy. The first three tracks present Coltrane as leader of a pianoless trio, fleshing out a lot of chords in lieu of the keyboard. The most memorable moment on Lush Life is probably the title track, a luscious ballad owned by the leader until around nine minutes in when Donald Byrd steps out of the woodwork for some equally inspiring lines on the trumpet. Two years ago I was at a stoplight listening to this on the radio and was so transfixed by Byrd's meandering melancholy that it took a horn blast from the car behind me to break the reverie. While I'll never recreate that moment, I can still listen again and again. "Trane's Slo Blues" is also notable for Coltrane's moves inside the changes. These tracks appear on the boxset Fearless Leader although they are not presented in the same sequence as they are here, which is actually quite good. 

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