The full intensity of John Coltrane's "classic quartet" with drummer Elvin Jones, pianist McCoy Tyner, and bassist Jimmy Garrison could always be felt at its utmost on live recordings. New Thing at Newport only features Coltrane's band on one half of its length, but you won't hear anyone complaining. "One Up, One Down" and "My Favorite Things," recorded at the 1965 Newport Jazz Festival, are mesmerizing performances that capture all the coiled brilliance of this legendary unit. On the cusp of his immersion into the outer boundaries of free jazz, here Coltrane still improvises over the hurricane-powered but conventionally structured swing of the Jones-Tyner-Garrison rhythm triumvirate. After pouring his life into the tenor on "One Up, One Down," Coltrane turns to the soprano for a riveting take on the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic that he made his own.
The rest of the recording is taken up by an Archie Shepp ensemble featuring the tenor saxophonist alongside vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, bassist Barre Phillips, and drummer Joe Chambers. Shepp had his own take on the jazz avant garde, and this open-form ensemble was one of his most conducive working bands. While little could match the impact of the Coltrane band, Shepp's ensemble manages to hold its own quite nicely, proving that there was more than one way to push the limits of jazz form.