Volume 95, Issue 58

Wednesday, January 16, 2002
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Outside the Box

Outside the Box

By Stephen Libin
Gazette Staff

John Coltrane
Blue Train

Blue Note

There was a time when music wasn't based upon sampled beats or overused catch phrases. It was during this time that jazz and blues music thrived.

In 1957, John Coltrane released one of the most monumental recordings in the history of music – Blue Train. Recorded for the famed Blue Note label, this five track LP was the first of Coltrane's major works as the brightest feather in the label's cap.

John Coltrane began his musical career as a sideman for Dizzy Gillespie's band, but went on to be one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.

Having recently ended a stint with the Miles Davis Quintet because of a heroin addiction, Coltrane joined legendary pianist Thelonius Monk's quartet at the time of Blue Train's recording.

The title track opens the album with all the expectations of a classic jazz/blues standard. Each musician in the six-piece gets the opportunity to showcase their skills, while drummer "Philly" Joe Jones and bassist Paul Chambers provide the background glue for the entire piece.

By opening with this particular track, the disc has the feeling of a live show, as "Blue Train" seems to be a warm-up track. One of the aspects that gives the track its unique blues sound is the subtle trombone wails in the background.

Coltrane's sidemen never saw the music they were to play until just before the recording. Although undetectable on the album, trombonist Curtis Fuller complained Coltrane's arrangements were too challenging to learn "in a moment's notice."

This statement provided the inspiration for the track "Moment's Notice." The jazz classic is a happy and upbeat melody with animated solos that conjure images of a man strutting down the street wearing a grin.

"Locomotion" begins with a quick drum intro that kick-starts the track on a fast-paced adventure. As opposed to the opener, it is evident that Coltrane is the bandleader, as he plays longer and with more prominent solos in this number.

The only track that Coltrane didn't write on this album was the slow ballad, "I'm Old Fashioned." Although not in the same style or pace as the other tracks, its presence shows the "Trane's" sensitive take on a standard love song.

Self-described as his favourite album and by others as the perfect recording, Blue Train is clear proof from his early works that Coltrane possessed the skills that would eventually make him one of music's undeniable legends.

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