1962 (CD)

  • John Coltrane — soprano saxophone on “Spiritual” and “Softly As In Morning Sunrise”; tenor saxophone on “Spiritual” and “Chasin’ the Trane”
  • Eric Dolphy — bass clarinet on “Spiritual”
  • McCoy Tyner — piano on side one
  • Reggie Workman — bass on side one
  • Jimmy Garrison — bass on side two
  • Elvin Jones — drums

Subsequently re-emerging  as part of a mammoth box set of Coltrane’s four night residency at the famous New York Club this one really split the critical crowd when it was released. In hindsight Coltrane’s explorations, over lengthy tunes, seem relatively benign in comparison with what was to follow, not only  from the man himself, but also a whole sub-genre of avant-garde and free improvisation which may well have been prompted by these music endeavors. The critical response at the time was extremely negative in parts, which perhaps says more about the music writing establishment of the early 60s than it does about ‘Trane.

Three performances were selected for this initial release from the four nights of recordings.  The standard, by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II “Softly as in Morning Sunrise”, plus a second entitled “Spiritual”, possibly an adaptation of the traditional “Nobody Knows de Trouble I See”. The third selection, the sixteen minute trio blues “Chasin’ the Trane”, has been described as one of the most important recordings in jazz combining  free jazz, jamming, and neoclassicism.

In it’s own right this release stands out as one of the most refreshing jazz recordings of all time. Even over 50 years later it still has the capacity to shock the listener. When put in the context of all of four nights it becomes a fascinating exploration of a musician looking for new avenues of expression. Coltrane indicates that he was following the lead of Sun Ra horn player John Gilmore when developing this music and its worth while tracking down contemporary material from Gilmore to hear the comparison.

An essential listen for anyone who wants to understand the impact of Coltrane on the world of jazz.






2002 (CD)

  • Dave Douglas: trumpet
  • Chris Potter: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet
  • Uri Caine: Fender Rhodes
  • James Genus: bass
  • Clarence Penn: drums

His 19th album proved to be a landmark, in no small part down to the stellar line-up assembled for the set.

Recorded over three days on December 16–18, 2001 at Avatar Studios, New York City, and including three eclectic covers of tunes by Rufus Wainwright, Bjork and Mary J. Blige, Douglas explores that Miles Davis inspired gap between post-bop and fusion first heard in 1968. To some degree there is a parallel, especially in band configuration, with the second great Davis quintet, and at times you could be listening to “Miles In The Sky” and to some extent “Filles De Kilimanjaro”. Caine’s use of the Fender Rhodes is a bit of a give-away in this respect. However by the same token in terms of structure and feel there is a nod back to the “Birth of the Cool Sessions” (“Boplicity” gets referenced in the lengthy track “Penelope”), and forward to “In A Silent Way”.  Douglas can include a European feel into a lot of his work and to some extent that input stops the album from being a direct Miles pastiche.

Overall then this is a Douglas album and a clear indicator of a mammoth body of work that was to follow. Douglas brings the best out of his band and Potter is in some of his best form and the leader at his most lyrical. The three pop-tunes on the album are radically re-engineered to the extent that they feel like brand new compositions. Overall this to my mind is one of his best albums although the critical reaction was not as strong as it was for the preceding “Witness” which I always felt was too wound up in the polemical undertone of the material.

The quintet would return two years later with “Strange Liberation” and a lot of the material on the album would turn up in the mammoth 12 CD set “Live at the Jazz Standard” albeit with Donny McCaslin replacing Potter. This then is the entry point for some of his most successful work and a good place to start if his music is new to you.

Next year there would be yet another change in direction with the more fusion oriented “Freak In” demonstrating his relentless quest for new forms of expression. The only other release in 2002 was as a sideman for Patricia Barber’s “Verse” album.

Exceptional modern jazz, beautifully played which both references the history of the music but sets markers for future development.


1000 Jazz Albums You Really Ought To Hear – 0003 : Jimmy Giuffre Trio – Free Fall

Columbia Legacy

1962 (vinyl)/1999(CD)

  • Jimmy Giuffre – Clarinet
  • Paul Bley – Piano
  • Steve Swallow – Double Bass

In the early 1960s the contemporaries to this album, Albert Ayler, John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman, were reinventing jazz in their own inimitable way, usually more brutal, often spiritual, and sometimes political. Giuffre’s approach to the music came from a totally different perspective than his peers. This is an album of considered, introspective, and often gentle music. It could be described as “freely improvised chamber jazz”.

This album has been cited as one of the most revolutionary recordings to come out of the 1960s. It was largely ignored when it was first released, hindsight reveals it to be a ground-breaking masterpiece.

Giuffre  created  a “microtonal” revolution ignored by other avant-gardists in jazz at the time. On “Free Fall”, Giuffre,  Paul Bley, and Steve Swallow embarked on a voyage even farther-reaching than their previous albums , reaching a creative peak with this recording.

The new approach was delivered through “pointillistic” harmony, whereby different musical notes are made in seclusion, rather than in a linear sequence, this is supported by open-toned playing, and phrasing using slight variations; through this method,  new platforms for solo or group improvisation are realised.

The original album comprised five clarinet solos, two duets for clarinet and bass, and three trio pieces. The CD reissue added five more clarinet solos to the set.

This album establishes Giuffre as a master of the idiom of, not only jazz free improvisation, but also as a ground breaking  interpreter of musical language. This is language that was originally utilised by the ancient Greeks and, developed in the 19th and 20th Century by the likes of Feldman, Stockhausen and Debussey.  Microtonal music has since been adopted by the likes of Wendy Carlos, Aphex Twin and Radiohead, as well as a large school of european free jazz players.

Giuffre’s solo clarinet pieces  are exercises in layering. Unique phrasing is used to create new sounds.  The group interactions intertwine chromatic pointillism between one instrument and the next, without relying on the conventions of harmony, rhythm, or melody.

Free Fall was such radical music, no one, was ready for it and the group disbanded shortly after it’s release.

The album presents a series of captivating explorations which require concentration but deliver a unique listening experience. Often melancholic, sometimes brisk and startling, the overall feel of the album is both measured and exploratory.

Quietly revolutionary this music was the culmination of the “Third Stream” movement and also paved the way for a younger generation of radicals, especially within the European jazz scene.


Caravan of Dreams/Harmolodic


Disc 1/Sides A and B (the Quartet)

Ornette Coleman – alto and tenor saxophone
Don Cherry – trumpet
Charlie Haden – double bass
Billy Higgins – drums

Disc 2/Sides C and D (Prime Time)

Ornette Coleman – saxophone and trumpet
Denardo Coleman – drums
Calvin Weston – drums
Jamaaladeen Tacuma – bass guitar
Al MacDowell – bass guitar
Charlie Ellerbee – electric guitar
Bernie Nix – electric Guitar

A historical document of some importance. Ornette uses his original quartet to revisit the sound of the late 50s the gave him his first breakthrough but uses contemporary material.  This means the avant garde aspects of the playing is juxtaposed with the extant harmolodic funk approach. This makes for an exceptional clash of styles.

The second half of the release was Ornette’s  current “double” band (two drums, two basses, two guitars) playing seven of the compositions that appear on the first half. This allows the listener to see how his approach has developed over the intervening 30 years.

The music is kept short and this allows, a rare thing in jazz,  the melodies and themes to stand in their own right and also demonstrate the power of Ornette’s writing.  The difference between the two discs is clear. The quartet has the space to work together, and apart, and recreate the magical bond that emerged in 1958.  Prime Time is denser and convoluted, not surprising given the number of musicians involved, a heady brew of interacting lines and rhythms that create a huge tension. The Quartet playfully caresses your ears whereas Prime Time slaps you around the head and get you up and dancing.

As a primer for  Ornette this is the perfect album, demonstrating where he came from and where he had got to in the mid 80s.





1000 Jazz Albums You Really Ought To Hear – 0001 : Dave Holland Quartet – Extensions

ECM 1410


  • Dave Holland – Double Bass
  • Steve Coleman – Alto Saxophone
  • Kevin Eubanks – Guitar
  • Marvin “Smitty” Smith – Drums

Dave Holland’s eighth album to be released on the ECM label. It features two members of his previous quintet Coleman and Smith  alongside  Eubanks, in his first appearance on a Holland record. I had the pleasure of seeing the touring band for this album at the Band On The Wall, Manchester when it first came out. A memorable evening.

Album of the Year in Downbeat and rightly so. Beautifully recorded by Manfred Eicher the album is packed with exemplary playing, especially by the leader. The interplay between the four musicians is remarkable. It is predominantly post-bop with Holland leading a riff based series of heads. Eubanks demonstrates a wide variety of styles and Coleman is at his very best. Smith provides a powerful engine but also adds deft touches when the individual leads are soloing.

The open sound and the rock orientated delivery make this an album worth a visit if you are exploring jazz for the first time.