Coltrane "Live" at the Village Vanguard

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Coltrane "Live" at the Village Vanguard
Live album by
ReleasedMarch 1962
RecordedNovember 2–3, 1961
Village Vanguard, New York City
LabelImpulse! Records
ProducerBob Thiele
John Coltrane chronology
Olé Coltrane
Coltrane "Live" at the Village Vanguard

Coltrane "Live" at the Village Vanguard is the tenth album by jazz musician John Coltrane and his first live album, released in 1962 on Impulse Records, catalogue A-10. It is the first album to feature the members of the classic quartet of himself with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones. In contrast to his previous album for Impulse!, this one generated much turmoil among both critics and audience alike with its challenging music.


In 1961, Coltrane created controversy both with the hiring of Eric Dolphy and with the kind of music his band was playing. In reaction to the Quintet's residency at the Village Vanguard in New York City starting in late October 1961, Down Beat critic John Tynan described the group as "musical nonsense being peddled in the name of jazz" and "a horrifying demonstration of what appears to be a growing anti-jazz trend."[1] European critics and audiences also had difficulty with appearances earlier in the year, finding the group's music, especially that of Coltrane and Dolphy, puzzling and difficult to follow.[2] Down Beat magazine editor Don DeMichael took the step of inviting the pair to defend themselves, a piece appearing in the April 12, 1962 issue entitled "John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy Answer the Critics".[3][4]

It was the idea of new producer Bob Thiele to record Coltrane live over four nights in early November, Thiele meeting the saxophonist for the first time face-to-face at the club.[5] This commenced a close working relationship between Thiele and Coltrane that would last for the rest of his time at Impulse!, Thiele producing virtually every subsequent album. Thiele secured Coltrane's trust right away by not insisting he record his most popular song, "My Favorite Things", during these shows.[6] Sound engineer Rudy Van Gelder set up his equipment at a table by the stage,[7] and for these concerts Coltrane often enhanced the Quintet by adding tampura,[8] contrabassoon, oboe, or a second bass.


Three performances were chosen for the album, one a pop standard and a second entitled "Spiritual", possibly an adaptation of "Nobody Knows de Trouble I See" published in The Book of American Negro Spirituals by James Weldon Johnson.[9] The third selection, the blues "Chasin' the Trane", has been described as one of the most important recordings in jazz for its seeming ability to unify the approaches of free jazz, jamming, and neoclassicism.[6] As to its genesis, in a 1966 interview Coltrane recalled that he had "listened to John Gilmore kind of closely before I made 'Chasin the Trane'." [10]

The performances are quintet for "Spiritual", quartet for "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise", and trio for "Chasin' the Trane". These were Reggie Workman's final recordings with the group, as by December 1961 Garrison was announced as his replacement, stabilizing a line-up that would remain constant for the next four years.[11]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic4.5/5 stars[12]
Pitchfork Media(8.5/10)[13]
Down Beat3.5/5 stars[14]
The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide5/5 stars[15]

Pursuant to the article by Coltrane and Dolphy, for the following April 26 issue Down Beat presented two reviews of Live! at the Village Vanguard, both focusing on "Chasin' the Trane". Pete Welding described it as "a torrential and anguished outpouring, delivered with unmistakable power, conviction, and near-demonic ferocity."[16] On the other hand, Ira Gitler, who had coined the phrase "sheets of sound", stated that "Coltrane may be searching for new avenues of expression, but if it is going to take this form of yawps, squawks, and countless repetitive runs, then it should be confined to the woodshed."[16]

Two additional recordings taken from these shows appeared on the album Impressions, "Impressions" and "India". On September 23, 1997, Impulse! issued a box set The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings, with the sets from all four nights chronologically on four compact discs.

Track listing[edit]

Side one[edit]

1."Spiritual"John Coltrane13:47
2."Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise"Sigmund Romberg
Oscar Hammerstein II

Side two[edit]

1."Chasin' the Trane"John Coltrane16:08



  1. ^ Lewis Porter. John Coltrane: His Life and Music. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1999. ISBN 0-472-10161-7, p. 193.
  2. ^ Porter, p. 194.
  3. ^ Ben Ratliff. Coltrane: The Story of A Sound. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. ISBN 978-0-374-12606-3, p. 143.
  4. ^ David A. Wild. The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings. Impulse IMPD4-232 liner notes, p. 12.
  5. ^ Impulse IMPD4-232 liner notes, p. 12.
  6. ^ a b Ratliff, p. 75.
  7. ^ Impulse IMPD4-232 liner notes, p. 15-16.
  8. ^ wrongly labelled as oud in the disc notes [1]
  9. ^ Porter, p. 206.
  10. ^ Frank Kofsky. Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970, p. 235.
  11. ^ Porter, p. 200.
  12. ^ Allmusic review
  13. ^ Pitchfork Media review
  14. ^ Down Beat: April 26, 1962 vol. 29, no. 9
  15. ^ Swenson, J., ed. (1985). The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide. USA: Random House/Rolling Stone. p. 47. ISBN 0-394-72643-X.
  16. ^ a b Porter, p. 196.

External links[edit]