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Giant Steps

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Giant Steps
Studio album by
ReleasedFebruary 1960 (1960-02)[1][2]
RecordedMay 4–5, 1959
December 2, 1959
StudioAtlantic Studios
New York City[3]
ProducerNesuhi Ertegun
John Coltrane chronology
Giant Steps
Coltrane Jazz

Giant Steps is a studio album by the jazz musician John Coltrane. It was released in February 1960 through Atlantic Records.[1][2][4] This was Coltrane's first album as leader for the label, with which he had signed a new contract the previous year. The record is regarded as one of the most influential jazz albums of all time. Many of its tracks have become practice templates for jazz saxophonists.[5][6] In 2004, it was one of fifty recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry. It attained gold record status in 2018, having sold 500,000 copies.[7]

Two tracks, "Naima" and "Syeeda's Song Flute", are respectively named after Coltrane's wife at the time and her daughter, whom he adopted. A third, "Mr. P.C.", takes its name from the initials of bassist Paul Chambers, who played on the album. A fourth, "Cousin Mary", is named in honor of Mary Lyerly, Coltrane's younger cousin.


In 1959, Miles Davis's business manager Harold Lovett negotiated a record contract for Coltrane with Atlantic, the terms of which included a $7,000 annual guarantee (equivalent to $73,164 in 2023).[8] Initial sessions for this album, the second recording date for Coltrane under his new contract after a January 15 date led by Milt Jackson, took place on March 26, 1959.[9] Coltrane was dissatisfied with the results of this session with Cedar Walton and Lex Humphries, and hence they were not used for the album,[10] but appeared on subsequent compilations and reissues. Principal recording for the album took place on May 4 and 5, two weeks after Coltrane had participated in the final session for Kind of Blue.[11] The track "Naima" was recorded on December 2 with Coltrane's bandmates, the rhythm section from the Miles Davis Quintet, who would provide the backing for most of his next album, Coltrane Jazz.[12]

Coltrane's improvisation exemplifies the melodic phrasing that came to be known as sheets of sound, and features his explorations into third-related chord movements that came to be known as Coltrane changes.[13] The Giant Steps chord progression consists of a distinctive set of chords that create key centers a major third apart. Jazz musicians ever since have used it as a practice piece, its difficult chord changes presenting a "kind of ultimate harmonic challenge", and serving as a gateway into modern jazz improvisation. Several pieces on this album went on to become jazz standards, most prominently "Naima" and "Giant Steps".[10][14]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[17]
Tom HullA−[18]
Penguin Guide to Jazz[19]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[20]
The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide[21]
Virgin Encyclopedia[22]

The Penguin Guide to Jazz selected this album as part of its suggested "Core Collection" calling it "Trane's first genuinely iconic record."[23] In 2003, the album was ranked number 102 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time,[24] 103 in a 2012 revised list,[25] and 232 in a 2020 revised list.[26]

In 2000 it was voted number 764 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums.[27]

On March 3, 1998, Rhino Records reissued Giant Steps as part of its Atlantic 50th Anniversary Jazz Gallery series. Included were eight bonus tracks, five of which had appeared in 1975 on the Atlantic compilation Alternate Takes, the remaining three earlier issued on The Heavyweight Champion: The Complete Atlantic Recordings in 1995.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a lifetime jazz lover, titled his autobiography Giant Steps both as a play on his 7'2" height and in tribute to the Coltrane album.

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No.TitleDate recordedLength
1."Giant Steps"May 5, 19594:43
2."Cousin Mary"May 5, 19595:45
3."Countdown"May 4, 19592:21
4."Spiral"May 4, 19595:56
Side two
No.TitleDate recordedLength
5."Syeeda's Song Flute"May 5, 19597:00
6."Naima"December 2, 19594:21
7."Mr. P.C."May 5, 19596:57
1987 CD reissue bonus tracks
No.TitleDate recordedLength
8."Giant Steps" (alternate version 1)March 26, 19593:41
9."Naima" (alternate version 1)March 26, 19594:27
10."Cousin Mary" (alternate take)May 5, 19595:54
11."Countdown" (alternate take)May 4, 19594:33
12."Syeeda's Song Flute" (alternate take)May 5, 19597:02
1998 CD reissue additional bonus tracks
No.TitleDate recordedLength
13."Giant Steps" (alternate version 2)March 26, 19593:32
14."Naima" (alternate version 2)March 26, 19593:37
15."Giant Steps" (alternate take)May 5, 19595:00


Thursday, March 26, 1959 (Tracks 8, 9, 13, 14)[28]

Monday, May 4, 1959 (Tracks 3, 4, 11) & Tuesday, May 5, 1959 (Tracks 1, 2, 5, 7, 10, 12 and 15)

Wednesday, December 2, 1959 (Track 6)


Release history[edit]

  • 1960 – Atlantic Records SD 1311, vinyl record
  • 1987 – Atlantic Records, first generation compact disc
  • 1994 – Mobile Fidelity Gold CD
  • 1998 – Rhino Records R2 75203, Deluxe Edition compact disc and 180-gram vinyl record
  • 2020 – Atlantic Records R2 625106/603497848393, 60 Years Deluxe Edition, 2 CDs (Remastered Album + Outtakes)


  1. ^ a b Ostrow, Marty; Howard, Ira, eds. (January 23, 1960). "New Darin Album" (PDF). The Cash Box. New York: The Cash Box Publishing Co. p. 51. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 13, 2023.
  2. ^ a b Ostrow, Marty; Howard, Ira, eds. (February 13, 1960). "February Album Releases" (PDF). The Cash Box. New York: The Cash Box Publishing Co. p. 46. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 13, 2023.
  3. ^ Atlantic Masters CD Edition Liner Notes, 1998
  4. ^ DeVito, Chris; Fujioka, Yasuhiro; Schmaler, Wolf; Wild, David (2013). Porter, Lewis (ed.). The John Coltrane Reference. New York/Abingdon: Routledge. p. 564. ISBN 9780415634632. Retrieved January 2, 2020.
  5. ^ Ben Ratliff. Coltrane: The Story of A Sound. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux; 2007. ISBN 978-0-374-12606-3. pp. 53-54.
  6. ^ Lewis Porter. John Coltrane: His Life and Music. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1999. ISBN 0-472-10161-7, p. 145.
  7. ^ "What's News". The New York City Jazz Record. No. 202. January 2019. p. 5.
  8. ^ Lewis Porter. John Coltrane: His Life and Music. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1999. ISBN 0-472-10161-7, pp. 117-8.
  9. ^ Porter, p. 145, pp. 359-60.
  10. ^ a b Nisenson, Eric (2009). Ascension: John Coltrane and his Quest. New York: Hachette Books. p. 171. ISBN 9780786750955.
  11. ^ Porter, p. 360.
  12. ^ Giant Steps. Atlantic R2 75203, liner notes, p. 18.
  13. ^ Porter, pp. 145-148
  14. ^ "Giant Steps (1959)". JazzStandards.com. Archived from the original on December 2, 2010. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  15. ^ Allmusic review
  16. ^ Gleason, Ralph J. (March 31, 1960). "John Coltrane: Giant Steps". DownBeat. Vol. 27, no. 7. p. 26.
  17. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195313734.
  18. ^ Hull, Tom (n.d.). "Jazz (1940s-50s)". tomhull.com. Retrieved March 3, 2020.
  19. ^ "Penguin Guide to Jazz review". Archived from the original on September 14, 2017. Retrieved June 18, 2009.
  20. ^ Rolling Stone review
  21. ^ Swenson, J., ed. (1985). The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide. US: Random House/Rolling Stone. p. 46. ISBN 0-394-72643-X.
  22. ^ "Virgin Encyclopedia review". Archived from the original on September 14, 2017. Retrieved June 18, 2009.
  23. ^ Cook, Richard; Brian Morton (2006) [1992]. "John Coltrane". The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings. The Penguin Guide to Jazz (8th. ed.). New York: Penguin. p. 269. ISBN 0-14-102327-9.
  24. ^ "102) Giant Steps". Rolling Stone. New York. November 2003. Archived from the original on March 22, 2009. Retrieved April 26, 2013.
  25. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  26. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. September 22, 2020. Retrieved August 26, 2021.
  27. ^ Larkin, Colin (2000). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 241. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  28. ^ Atlantic Masters Edition CD Liner Notes 1998

External links[edit]