Impulse Albums, Vol. 5

Impulse Albums, Vol. 5

by John Coltrane

The fifth and final volume in Universal's massive John Coltrane: The Impulse! Albums in the Originals series, contains five recordings, all issued posthumously between 1970 and 1973. Two of these, Transition and Sun Ship, feature Coltrane's classic quartet with…  See more details below


The fifth and final volume in Universal's massive John Coltrane: The Impulse! Albums in the Originals series, contains five recordings, all issued posthumously between 1970 and 1973. Two of these, Transition and Sun Ship, feature Coltrane's classic quartet with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones. Of the remaining albums, two are live recordings -- Live in Seattle and Concert in Japan -- the remaining one being the infamous Infinity. Transition (AS-9195) was recorded in May and June of 1965. It is comprised of two long pieces, the title track, and the five-part "Suite," as well as the five-minute bridge between them, "Dear Lord" which, in its way, is both a conclusion to the fiery engagement of the title track and an intro to the labyrinthine, 21-minute, multi-part work. Musically, this is as fine as anything cut by the quartet, post 1963. It is fully engaged and realized. Its group interplay pushes at the edges, but contains passages of intense modal lyricism. Why it wasn't released during Coltrane's lifetime is curious. By contrast, Sun Ship (AS-9211, 1971), recorded in August of 1965, is a much more aggressive album with a much shoddier sound. It was clearly unfinished: Tyner's piano and Garrison's bass in the right channel are recorded far lower than Jones' drums in the left; only Coltrane's tenor is in both. Other than the title track and "Dearly Beloved," the rest sounds and feels like thematic sketches with long improvisations in between. Live in Seattle was also released in 1971 as AS 9202-2 on a double LP, and contained four tracks. It was recorded in September of 1965 with the quartet plus Pharoah Sanders and Donald Rafael Garrett on bass clarinet. While this performance is startling in revealing the direction Coltrane was heading with Sanders, the sound quality is somewhat dodgy, with instruments unbalanced and dropping out of the mix altogether in places. The 35-plus-minute "Evolution," which was split over two sides, contains the scariest moment (literally) in late 20th century music: when Coltrane and Sanders, who can go no further with their horns, begin shouting and moaning their improvisations. Infinity (AS-9225, 1972) is, as stated earlier, infamous. It contains four tracks from three different sessions in 1966. Alice Coltrane took unfinished demo recordings -- two with his earlier quartet, one with Sanders, Rashied Ali, and herself, and one with simply saxophone and drums, with dubbed piano, organ, tambura, and percussion parts added to them. She also dubbed Charlie Haden's bass onto three of these pieces (one, "Joy," in addition to Garrison's), and then arranged and added a string section to the entire album. Hearing it now, it's a much more gentle and tasteful-sounding recording, if rightfully questionable for the liberties she took with the demos. At the time it was a shock, and remains controversial. Finally, Concert in Japan (AS-9246-2), cut in Tokyo in July of 1966 and released as a double LP, is a showcase of what this final quintet was capable of when firing on all cylinders. "Peace on Earth," at 25 minutes, is a beautiful modal piece with some outside soloing by both saxophonists. The nearly 45-minute "Meditations"/"Leo" is aural evidence of the improvisational power of the band; it features some fine bass clarinet from Sanders and piano work from Alice that is remarkable. Ultimately, while much of this music is fascinating, some of these albums will remain controversial because of the choices Alice and Ed Michel made, and are for those Coltrane completists who haven't already purchased these 24-bit remastered CDs before, either in the States or from Japan.

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

John Coltrane   Primary Artist,Percussion,Bass Clarinet,Saxophone,Soprano Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone,Soloist
Rashied Ali   Percussion,Strings,Drums,Soloist
Elvin Jones   Strings,Drums
Jimmy Garrison   Bass,Soloist
McCoy Tyner   Piano
Murray Adler   Violin,Concert Master
Ray Appleton   Percussion,Strings
Alice Coltrane   Organ,Piano,Harp,Timpani,Vibes,Soloist,Tambura
Rollice Dale   Viola
Jesse Ehrlich   Cello
Donald Rafael Garrett   Bass Clarinet
James Getzoff   Violin
Charlie Haden   Bass
Myra Kestenbaum   Viola
Edgar Lustgarten   Cello
Pharoah Sanders   Flute,Percussion,Bass Clarinet,Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone,Soloist
Gerald Vinci   Violin
Michael White   Violin
Joan Chapman   Tambura
Oran Coltrane   Strings,Bells
Gordon Marron   Violin
Hisato Aikura   Spoken Word

Technical Credits

Harold Arlen   Composer
Jimmy Garrison   Composer
Baker Bigsby   Engineer
Alice Coltrane   Programming,Producer,Liner Notes,String Arrangements,Inspiration,String Conductor
John Coltrane   Composer,Producer
Rudy Van Gelder   Engineer
Nat Hentoff   Liner Notes
Jan Kurtis   Engineer
Johnny Mercer   Composer
Ed Michel   Programming,Producer
Kevin Reeves   Mastering
Paul Whalen   Engineer
Ryan Null   Photo Coordination
Michele Horie   Producer
Jo Almeida   Photo Coordination
Teresa Tsuzaki   Licensing
Honeya Barth   Illustrations
Richard Taylor   Illustrations

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