a thrilling Trane trip

Newport '63 (Impulse)
John Coltrane

By John Goodin

The music of John Coltrane is as good as music gets. It can be, however, a difficult music to get into. Often not pretty, it is music of great beauty. Often chaotic on the surface, it is music of great calm. Newport '63 is an excellent way to explore what all the shouting is about.

Recorded live at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 7, 1963, and never released on record, the first three cuts feature the "classic" Coltrane quartet minus Elvin Jones. McCoy Tyner on piano and Jimmy Garrison on bass are joined by Roy Haynes on drums in the Coltrane rhythm section.

Billy Eckstine's "I Want to Talk About You" pretends to be a ballad but really is an excuse for a tour-de-force Coltrane solo at the end. This was a regular part of Coltrane performances during this period and it's wonderful to have another version to listen to. The combination of passion and harmonic invention displayed here is awesome.

"My Favorite Things" was Coltrane's hit and here still sounds fresh. Tyner comes through with a lengthy solo and Haynes shows that he's in the same league with Elvin Jones. Simple stamina was one of the hallmarks of the Coltrane quartet; Haynes proves himself on this 17-minute performance.

The nearly sixteen minute "Impressions" that follows shows Haynes once again up to the Elvin challenge. He keeps pace with and adds fuel to Coltrane's enormous energy while, for most of the tune, Tyner and Garrison lay out. This is high octane Coltrane at its most accessible. In a couple of years, this energy creates music that is much more dense and difficult.

Newport '63 ends with a live recording from New York, 1961. "Chasin' Another Trane" recorded at the Village Vanguard also features Roy Haynes; this time with Eric Dolphy on alto and Reggie Workman on bass. This is 15 minutes of uptempo blues playing, slightly less intense than the Newport cuts. It's still a dynamite performance and Dolphy and Coltrane together were always exciting.