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Fearless Leader

Fearless Leader

5.0 1
by John Coltrane
Before John Coltrane became the jazz icon that he remains to this day, he was still plenty great. The proof lies in the copious music that makes up Fearless Leader, representing all-star sessions that Coltrane led on the Prestige label, just a few years before he started his own band. The tenor saxophonist’s sound had come together by 1957 and only grew in


Before John Coltrane became the jazz icon that he remains to this day, he was still plenty great. The proof lies in the copious music that makes up Fearless Leader, representing all-star sessions that Coltrane led on the Prestige label, just a few years before he started his own band. The tenor saxophonist’s sound had come together by 1957 and only grew in power, invention, and solidity through the last of these recordings, which extend to the close of 1958. Roaring through up-tempo numbers or pouring his heart out on ballads, Coltrane was the complete saxophonist, and it's no wonder Miles Davis pulled him back into his band in 1958. With associates of the caliber of bassist Paul Chambers, pianist Red Garland, and trumpeters Freddie Hubbard and Donald Byrd, Coltrane is in fast company, and his cohorts' sterling musicianship inspires him. The chronological order of the tracks is another plus, making sense of earlier, jumbled releases. If you love Trane, this set is a must-have.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Jeff Tamarkin
In the spring of 1957, when he signed with Bob Weinstock's Prestige Records, John Coltrane was still a relative newcomer to the national jazz scene. He wasn't, at age 30, a youngster by any means, and he had already been playing professionally for more than a dozen years, but most of that had been as a sideman and he was known primarily to insiders. Most recently, since 1955, he'd worked for Miles Davis, who had first recognized Coltrane's potential in the late '40s. Coltrane's blowing with Davis' quintet was often brilliant, sometimes spotty, promising overall, but the saxophonist's heroin habit was getting the better of him and Davis cut him loose a number of times before finally disbanding the group in 1957. Weinstock was well familiar with Coltrane's growing reputation and had used him as a sideman at the label. When he gave him a contract as a leader, he could not have known, of course, that he was setting off one of the most monumentally influential careers jazz would ever know. At Prestige, Coltrane, now cleaned up from drugs, was ridiculously prolific, taking part in some 27 sessions in all during 1957 and 1958, the entirety of which, 125 tracks, can be heard on the 16-disc box set The Prestige Recordings. This six-disc set seems almost minimal in comparison, eschewing Coltrane's sideman work at Prestige to concentrate on his role as frontman. But by focusing on Coltrane as an increasingly creative, at times explosive, groundbreaking force, this "compact" set is, in its own way, the more potent of the two. And Fearless Leader is an appropriate title: Coltrane was by nature unafraid to take chances, eager to dare himself and his musicians to go places jazz had yet to travel. He wasn't quite up to running speed yet at Prestige, but he was well on his way to figuring out that the possibilities were boundless. While some of the Prestige recordings might seem almost tame and mainstream in comparison to the music Coltrane would later cut for Atlantic and Impulse!, that's really only in retrospect: seen in the context of its time, the sessions that Coltrane cut at Prestige -- released originally on such albums as Coltrane, Traneing In, The Believer, Soultrane, and the stunning ballads/standards set Lush Life, on which Coltrane plays it relatively straight, displaying a debt to Charlie Parker that would dissipate as he proceeded to probe worlds Bird never dreamed of -- raised the bar higher than it had ever been at the time. As Fearless Leader is arranged by session and does not attempt to replicate the original albums' running orders, however, those earlier contexts cease to exist and listeners are left to experience the music as Coltrane -- working at Prestige mainly with such peers as pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers, drummers Art Taylor and Louis Hayes, and trumpeters Donald Byrd and Freddie Hubbard -- cut it, chronologically. Whatever tentativeness he was still feeling early in the relationship slowly gives way, and by the end of Coltrane's tenure at the label, his signature aggressive probing is in full swing, notably on tracks such as "Bahia" and "Goldsboro Express," from his December 1958 session, and a breakneck "Lover Come Back to Me" from earlier that year. Although he was still capable of playing it straight and unadorned -- his blues and romantic ballads are uniformly moving and elegantly laid out -- and Coltrane's Prestige era was a transitional one to be sure, Fearless Leader makes clear that the roots of his genius were already firmly planted.

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

John Coltrane   Primary Artist,Tenor Saxophone
Red Garland   Piano
Louis Hayes   Drums
Art Taylor   Drums
Mal Waldron   Piano
Wilbur Harden   Trumpet,Flugelhorn
Jimmy Cobb   Drums
Donald Byrd   Trumpet
Albert "Tootie" Heath   Drums
Freddie Hubbard   Trumpet
Earl May   Bass
Sahib Shihab   Baritone Saxophone
Johnny Splawn   Trumpet

Technical Credits

Sigmund Romberg   Composer
Irving Berlin   Composer
Hoagy Carmichael   Composer
Count Basie   Composer
Tadd Dameron   Composer
Billy Eckstine   Composer
Alonzo Levister   Composer
Cal Massey   Composer
Vincent Youmans   Composer
Harold Arlen   Composer
Richard Rodgers   Composer
McCoy Tyner   Composer
Fred E. Ahlert   Composer
Greg Allen   Art Direction
Lew Brown   Composer
Sammy Cahn   Composer
John Coltrane   Composer
Buddy DeSylva   Composer
Howard Dietz   Composer
Esmond Edwards   Producer
Sammy Fain   Composer
Rudy Van Gelder   Engineer
Ira Gitler   Original Liner Notes
Joe Goldberg   Original Liner Notes
Mack Gordon   Composer
Oscar Hammerstein   Composer
E.Y. "Yip" Harburg   Composer
Lorenz Hart   Composer
Ray Henderson   Composer
Gus Kahn   Composer
Herbert Magidson   Composer
Jackie McLean   Composer
Johnny Mercer   Composer
Dan Morgenstern   Original Liner Notes
Cheryl Pawelski   Producer,Liner Notes
Cole Porter   Composer
Leo Robin   Composer
Arthur Schwartz   Composer
Billy Strayhorn   Composer
Jule Styne   Composer
James Van Heusen   Composer
Bob Weinstock   Composer,Audio Production
Jack Yellen   Composer
Jack Baker   Composer
Patrick Milligan   Producer,Liner Notes
Ary Barroso   Composer
Bob Parent   Cover Photo
Jack McKinney   Original Liner Notes
Fred Lacey   Composer
Lewis Porter   Liner Notes
Tom Adair   Composer
Richard A. Whiting   Composer
Henry Nemo   Composer
Harry Revel   Composer
George Fragos   Composer
Ralph Freed   Composer
Frederick Hollander   Composer
Gabriel Luna   Composer
Newell Chase   Composer
Dick Gasparre   Composer
Richard S. Ginell   Liner Notes
Miguel Prado   Composer

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Fearless Leader [Box Set] 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
bigdave37 More than 1 year ago
If you a serious listener of jazz music and you want to appreciate the history of how the John Coletrane came about then you need this set. I've been listening to this everyday since I got it. Soulful, passionate, and spiritual.