The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recording (Impulse!)
John Coltrane

By Keith H. Brown

I can't imagine life without John Coltrane. Without "Blue Train." "Giant Steps." "Impressions." As a matter of fact, I can't imagine life at all pre-J.C. It's all just a blur. It couldn't have had the color. The taste. John Coltrane does true soul music. No other artist touches me or hits me with the same intensity.

I remember back in '76 when my best friend Daryl introduced me to his music, by way of the My Favorite Things LP. I was speechless. The sound of 'Trane's soprano sax . The notes darting in and out of the melody like a needle through cloth, weaving an improvisational tapestry. Since that day, not a week has gone by I haven't listened to at least a minute or two of 'Trane's sounds. It's therapeutic. It's a religious experience.

As a matter of fact, I'm listening to 'Trane cut the s**t out of "Chim Chim Cheree" right now. That's why when box sets of previously released material come out, it's like Christmas for me. The mortgage? The water bill? To heck wit' em. It's 'Trane time.

This new reissue, which originally appeared as Live At The Village Vanguard and The Village Vanguard Again!, has been digitally remastered and repackaged in a handsome slip case. The recordings have also been sequenced in their original order of the four nights Coltrane played the Vanguard in '61.

The music captures 'Trane in a fascinating stage in his career. Eric Dolphy joins in on some well known classics ("Impressions," "Naima") but here, it's the performance that counts. 'Trane's music was changing, as evidenced on his eastern-influenced India. Between the barrage of Elvin Jones drums and his own incendiary playing, 'Trane was truly going somewhere. Many of the trademark obsessions appear: the religious ("Spiritual"), the ballad, ("Softly as in a Morning Sunrise") the blues ("Chasin' the Trane"), all played with an intensity that puts the listener on the edge of the planet, just about to teeter over. There's an urgency here, too: 'Trane was at a crossroads. What to do next? Keep playing.

Spreading this material over four CDs with extraordinary sound, Impulse! has done an excellent job putting you there. One may quibble that it's taken them 36 years (two years longer than Eric Dolphy's entire lifetime) to finally release this historic recording in it's entirety, but what the hey? I would have waited forever.