Giant Steps

Giant Steps

4.5 4
by John Coltrane
     
 

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In 1959, after dozens of albums and a couple of important apprenticeships (with Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis, whose band he would soon leave) John Coltrane was ready to turn jazz on its head. He made the announcement with the first notes of the first song on his first Atlantic album (the first albumSee more details below

Overview

In 1959, after dozens of albums and a couple of important apprenticeships (with Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis, whose band he would soon leave) John Coltrane was ready to turn jazz on its head. He made the announcement with the first notes of the first song on his first Atlantic album (the first album featuring only his compositions) -- the title track, a song whose brain-spinning chord changes he assays with fleet-footed harmonic authority. Then, after "Cousin Mary," he reprises it with the even faster "Countdown." The album -- all played on tenor with able support from pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Paul Chamber and drummer Art Taylor, no song longer than seven minutes -- also gave the world "Mr. P.C." and the gorgeous "Naima." It sent musicians into the woodshed (it sent Sonny Rollins, Coltrane's friendly rival, into a two-year sabbatical) and it served notice: this was one small step for John Coltrane, one giant leap for jazzkind. (The CD includes five noteworthy alternate takes.)

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Lindsay Planer
History will undoubtedly enshrine this disc as a watershed the likes of which may never truly be appreciated. Giant Steps bore the double-edged sword of furthering the cause of the music as well as delivering it to an increasingly mainstream audience. Although this was John Coltrane's debut for Atlantic, he was concurrently performing and recording with Miles Davis. Within the space of less than three weeks, Coltrane would complete his work with Davis and company on another genre-defining disc, Kind of Blue, before commencing his efforts on this one. Coltrane (tenor sax) is flanked by essentially two different trios. Recording commenced in early May of 1959 with a pair of sessions that featured Tommy Flanagan (piano) and Art Taylor (drums), as well as Paul Chambers -- who was the only bandmember other than Coltrane to have performed on every date. When recording resumed in December of that year, Wynton Kelly (piano) and Jimmy Cobb (drums) were instated -- replicating the lineup featured on Kind of Blue, sans Miles Davis of course. At the heart of these recordings, however, is the laser-beam focus of Coltrane's tenor solos. All seven pieces issued on the original Giant Steps are likewise Coltrane compositions. He was, in essence, beginning to rewrite the jazz canon with material that would be centered on solos -- the 180-degree antithesis of the art form up to that point. These arrangements would create a place for the solo to become infinitely more compelling. This would culminate in a frenetic performance style that noted jazz journalist Ira Gitler accurately dubbed "sheets of sound." Coltrane's polytonal torrents extricate the amicable and otherwise cordial solos that had begun decaying the very exigency of the genre -- turning it into the equivalent of easy listening. He wastes no time as the disc's title track immediately indicates a progression from which there would be no looking back. Line upon line of highly cerebral improvisation snake between the melody and solos, practically fusing the two. The resolute intensity of "Countdown" does more to modernize jazz in 141 seconds than many artists do in their entire careers. Tellingly, the contrasting and ultimately pastoral "Naima" was the last tune to be recorded, and is the only track on the original long-player to feature the Kind of Blue quartet. What is lost in tempo is more than recouped in intrinsic melodic beauty. Both Giant Steps [Deluxe Edition] and the seven-disc Heavyweight Champion: The Complete Atlantic Recordings offer more comprehensive presentations of these sessions.

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Product Details

Release Date:
10/25/1990
Label:
Atlantic
UPC:
0075678133725
catalogNumber:
1311
Rank:
2025

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