Giant Steps

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Giant Steps
Coltrane Giant Steps.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedFebruary 1960[1][2][3]
RecordedMay 4–5, 1959
December 2, 1959
StudioAtlantic Studios, New York[4]
ProducerNesuhi Ertegün
John Coltrane chronology
Kenny Burrell & John Coltrane
Giant Steps
Coltrane Jazz

Giant Steps is the fifth studio album by jazz musician John Coltrane as leader, released in February 1960 on Atlantic Records, catalogue SD 1311.[1][2][3] This was his first album as leader for his new label Atlantic Records. 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.


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 $61,394 in 2019).[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]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[15]
DownBeat5/5 stars[16]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music5/5 stars[17]
Tom HullA–[18]
Penguin Guide to Jazz4/4 stars[19]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4.5/5 stars[20]
The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide5/5 stars[21]
Virgin Encyclopedia5/5 stars[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] and 103 in a 2012 revised list.[25]

In 2000 it was voted number 764 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums.[26]

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.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by John Coltrane.

Side one
1."Giant Steps"4:43
2."Cousin Mary"5:45
Side two
1."Syeeda's Song Flute"7:00
3."Mr. P.C."6:57
1987 CD reissue bonus tracks
8."Giant Steps" (alternate version 1)3:41
9."Naima" (alternate version 1)4:27
10."Cousin Mary" (alternate take)5:54
11."Countdown" (alternate take)4:33
12."Syeeda's Song Flute" (alternate take)7:02
1998 CD reissue additional bonus tracks
13."Giant Steps" (alternate version 2)3:32
14."Naima" (alternate version 2)3:37
15."Giant Steps" (alternate take)5:00

Recording dates:[27]

Thursday March 26, 1959:

Tracks 8, 9, 13, 14

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


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[28] Gold 500,000double-dagger

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ a b "February Album Releases" (PDF). The Cash Box. The Cash Box Publishing Co. inc., NY. February 13, 1960. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "New Darin Album" (PDF). The Cash Box. The Cash Box Publishing Co. Inc., NY. January 23, 1960. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  3. ^ a b DeVito, Chris; Fujioka, Yasuhiro; Schmaler, Wolf; Wild, David (2013). Porter, Lewis (ed.). The John Coltrane Reference. New York/Abingdon: Routledge. p. 564. ISBN 978-1135112578.
  4. ^ Atlantic Masters CD Edition Liner Notes, 1998
  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)". Archived from the original on December 2, 2010. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  15. ^ Allmusic review
  16. ^ Down Beat review Archived June 7, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195313734.
  18. ^ Hull, Tom (n.d.). "Jazz (1940s-50s)". 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. ^ Larkin, Colin (2000). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 241. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  27. ^ Atlantic Masters Edition CD Liner Notes 1998
  28. ^ "American album certifications – John Coltrane – Giant Steps". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 

External links[edit]