Fans of John Coltrane's music certainly have been treated to wonderful joys the past several years, what with the appearance of Both Directions At Once last Summer and the lovely Coltrane '58 deluxe set earlier this year. And now we are treated to yet another new discovery: a Coltrane "soundtrack" to a French Canadian film, being released this week on a new album called Blue World!
For the most part the music recorded for this obscure movie had fallen between the cracks for numerous reasons, not the least being that few people saw the film or even knew about its existence. Stuff like this used to happen periodically back in the day, folks. Things are a bit more buttoned up these days and we usually know when our favorite artists record film music because it gets promoted heavily.
The story of how Blue World came about amidst the recording sessions for the landmark album A Love Supreme is fascinating. Coltrane was approached by filmmaker/fan Gilles Groulx -- via a personal connection with bassist Jimmy Garrison -- who was planning his film Le chat dans le sac. It was to be a love story set in Montreal with political undertones. Coltrane agreed and there right between the recording sessions for Crescent and A Love Supreme in June of '64, he re-recorded earlier works, something he never did.
Gilles Groulx was apparently at the Van Gelder recording session. It's unclear how much creative input the filmmaker had I can't help but think that there was some underlying direction happening. Most of the performances on Blue World are of a certain feel and tempo, which I suspect might have had to do with the visual rhythm the filmmaker envisioned for his production.
Recorded on 1/4" analog mono tape, the master recording was taken to Canada to for use in the film, although only ten minutes were actually used.
From the official press release we learn some important details about this new release:
"The original recordings were produced by John Coltrane, recorded, mixed and mastered by Rudy Van Gelder at Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, NJ on June 24, 1964. Re-Mastering was handled by Kevin Reeves at Universal Music Mastering, New York, NY and the new vinyl Lacquers were cut by Ron McMaster at Capitol Studios. The album features Coltrane's classic 1961-1965 quartet including pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones.
Taken on its own, here we have Coltrane revisiting key tracks from his past just before his ascent into the cosmic music stratosphere of his later works. We are treated to concise new versions of several Coltrane classics but interpreted by his group that is now known as "the classic quartet." Included are "Naima" (two takes, bookending the album), the title track -- also known as "Village Blues" -- "Like Sonny" (both from Coltrane Jazz) and "Traneing In" (from John Coltrane with the Red Garland Trio).
The performances are really interesting if you know the originals.
"Like Sonny" is presented more laid back than the original, a version which was already pretty laid back. This song for me is always a challenge as I first heard it on the Alternate Takes album and thus much prefer that more aggressive interpretation there than than Bossa Nova inspired takes here. Its not bad, just different and fascinating how flexible the composition was that it could be reinvented so dramatically.
All the performances are solid and well played. And they sound remarkably good for nearly 60-year-old Monaural recordings which have likely been in storage over the years. That alone makes Blue World a special treasure.
I've been listening to an advance preview download of the album for this review. It sounds quite good but again with nothing to really compare it to I can't offer much perspective on that front. Am anticipating the vinyl to arrive soon from the label and I will explore that in Part Two of this review.
To be continued...