The John Coltrane Quartet Plays

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The John Coltrane Quartet Plays
The John Coltrane Quartet Plays.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedAugust 1965[1]
RecordedFebruary 17–18 and May 17, 1965
StudioVan Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ
GenrePost-bop, modal jazz, avant-garde jazz
Length37:52 original LP
59:23 CD reissue
LabelImpulse!
A-85
ProducerBob Thiele
John Coltrane chronology
A Love Supreme
(1965)
The John Coltrane Quartet Plays
(1965)
Ascension
(1966)

The John Coltrane Quartet Plays (full title The John Coltrane Quartet Plays Chim Chim Cheree, Song of Praise, Nature Boy, Brazilia) is an album by jazz musician John Coltrane, recorded in February and May 1965, shortly after the release of A Love Supreme.

Background[edit]

The February and May 1965 recording sessions bracketed a period during which Coltrane's music continued to evolve at a rapid pace, and document a time of transition. The tracks recorded on February 17 and 18 featured two bass players (Jimmy Garrison and Art Davis), and may be seen as a continuation of experiments begun by Coltrane in 1961 involving multiple basses, often with one playing arco and the other playing pizzicato.[2] In March, Coltrane and his group played at the Half Note; recordings of some of these performances were released on Live at the Half Note: One Down, One Up,[3] about which one reviewer stated: it "captures Coltrane's music on the cusp of major change, just weeks before embarking on the last phase of his career — during which he expunged from his music every last speck of convention," and "documents the classic quartet near the end of its incredible run... The music reveals the band at its creative peak, reaching heights of focused intensity on every tune, stretching rhythmic and harmonic conventions to the breaking point."[4]

On March 28, Coltrane participated in a benefit concert at the Village Gate, organized and produced by LeRoi Jones,[5] and also featuring groups led by Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, Grachan Moncur III, and Charles Tolliver. The music recorded that day was released on The New Wave in Jazz, and served to solidify Coltrane's association with the avant-garde. (Coltrane's performance of "Nature Boy" was also included as a bonus track on the CD reissue of The John Coltrane Quartet Plays.) Given Coltrane's success, recognition, and respect within the jazz community, his appearance on the concert "seemed to validate the most daring music of the time."[6] Coltrane played additional concerts at the Half Note in April and early May (recordings of which were also included on Live at the Half Note: One Down, One Up),[7] before returning to the studio on May 17 to record the remaining tracks on The John Coltrane Quartet Plays.[8]

Witnesses to Coltrane's concerts during this time period recalled their reactions in vivid terms. Writer Dan Morgenstern heard Coltrane at one of the Half Note performances, and stated: "The intensity that was generated was absolutely unbelievable... I can still feel it, and it was unlike any other feeling within the music we call jazz."[9] Saxophonist Joe McPhee attended the Village Gate concert, and recalled: "I thought I was going to die from the emotion... I'd never experienced anything like that in my life. I thought I was just going to explode right in the place. The energy level kept building up, and I thought, God almighty, I can't take it."[10]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic[11]
The Penguin Guide to Jazz[12]
The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide[13]

AllMusic reviewer Scott Yanow called the album "a perfect introduction for listeners to Coltrane's last period."[11]

All About Jazz reviewer Robert Spencer noted that "all through this recording the intensity has been turned up a notch since A Love Supreme, the immediately preceding quartet recording... The music is often arresting and moving, but it certainly does seem as if the calm attainment of A Love Supreme has somehow been broken." He called the album "great music from a great musician" and "an invaluable record of a man struggling to attain to greater clarity of vision."[14]

The authors of The Penguin Guide to Jazz wrote: "What problems Coltrane was experiencing or what degree of emotional and creative burn-out he might have felt after A Love Supreme we don't know. It's clear that, as ever, his mind is searching in new directions... Plays is a fine record and the interaction of the group, both standard and augmented, is faultless. It is, however, a difficult item to place personally and artistically."[12]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by John Coltrane except where noted. A brief passage of applause has been crudely spliced onto the end of "Nature Boy (Live)".[15]

No.TitleRecording dateLength
1."Chim Chim Cheree" (Sherman Brothers)May 17, 19656:58
2."Brazilia"May 17, 196512:56
3."Nature Boy" (George Alexander Aberle)February 18, 19658:03
4."Song of Praise"May 17, 19659:56
Bonus tracks on CD reissues
No.TitleRecording dateLength
5."Feeling Good" (Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley)February 18, 19656:25
6."Nature Boy (First Version)"February 17, 19657:06
7."Nature Boy (Live at the Village Gate)"March 28, 19658:00

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Billboard, August 28, 1965.
  2. ^ Porter, Lewis (1999). John Coltrane: His Life and Music. University of Michigan Press. pp. 198–199.
  3. ^ Porter, Lewis; DeVito, Chris; Fujioka, Yasuhiro; Wild, David; Schmaler, Wolf (2008). The John Coltrane Reference. Routledge. pp. 716–718.
  4. ^ Kelsey, Chris (November 1, 2005). "John Coltrane: One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note". Jazz Times. Retrieved October 3, 2020.
  5. ^ Porter, Lewis; DeVito, Chris; Fujioka, Yasuhiro; Wild, David; Schmaler, Wolf (2008). The John Coltrane Reference. Routledge. pp. 719–720.
  6. ^ Porter, Lewis (1999). John Coltrane: His Life and Music. The University of Michigan Press. p. 262.
  7. ^ Porter, Lewis; DeVito, Chris; Fujioka, Yasuhiro; Wild, David; Schmaler, Wolf (2008). The John Coltrane Reference. Routledge. pp. 721–723.
  8. ^ Porter, Lewis; DeVito, Chris; Fujioka, Yasuhiro; Wild, David; Schmaler, Wolf (2008). The John Coltrane Reference. Routledge. pp. 724–725.
  9. ^ Ratliff, Ben (2007). Coltrane: The Story of a Sound. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. pp. 92–93.
  10. ^ Ratliff, Ben (2007). Coltrane: The Story of a Sound. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. 92.
  11. ^ a b Yanow, Scott. "The John Coltrane Quartet Plays". AllMusic. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
  12. ^ a b Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (2008). The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (9th ed.). Penguin. p. 290. ISBN 978-0-14-103401-0.
  13. ^ Swenson, J., ed. (1985). The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide. USA: Random House/Rolling Stone. p. 47. ISBN 0-394-72643-X.
  14. ^ Spencer, Robert (July 1, 1997). "John Coltrane: The John Coltrane Quartet Plays". All About Jazz. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  15. ^ Porter, Lewis; DeVito, Chris; Fujioka, Yasuhiro; Wild, David; Schmaler, Wolf (2008). The John Coltrane Reference. Routledge. p. 719.