The other day I was listening to Giant Steps, yet again, and this time I pulled out the album and re-read the liner notes. I was amazed at the prescience and knowledge of the writer. Here are the first two paragraphs:
“Along with sonny Rollins, John Coltrane has become the most influential and controversial tenor saxophonist inn modern jazz. He is becoming, in fact, more controversial and possibly more influential than Rollins. While it’s true that to musicians especially, Coltrane’s fiercely adventurous harmonic imagination is the most absorbing aspect of his developing style, the more basic point is that for many non-musician listeners, Coltrane at his best has an unusually striking emotional impact. There is such intensity in his playing that the string of adjectives employed by French Critic Gerard Bremond in a Jazz-Hot article on Coltrane seemed hardly at all exaggerated. Bremond called his playing ‘exuberant, furious, impassioned, thundering.’
“There is also, however, an extraordinary amount of sentimentality in Coltrane’s work. Part of the fury in much of his playing is the fury of the search, the obsession Coltrane has to play all he can hear or would like to hear — often all at once — and yet at the same time make his music, as he puts it, ‘more presentable.’ He said recently, ‘I’m worried that sometimes what I’m doing sounds like just academic exercises and I’m trying more and more to make it sound prettier.’ It seems to me he already succeeds often in accomplishing both his aims, as sections of this album demonstrate.”
I looked down at the bottom to see which Jazz journalist had written this piece back in 1959 and, to no surprise at all, it was the great Nat Hentoff. When I woke up this morning, there was news in The New York Times that Nat Hentoff had died at age 91.
By Al Perlman Editor and Publisher, Jazz Collector
So last night I was in bed with The Lovely Mrs. JC and as is our usual custom we were listening to a random playlist of ballads as we went to sleep. The shuffle landed on Stan Getz playing “Body and Soul.” We were listening and it was just sheer beauty and at the end of the second verse Getz goes into this run that is absolute genius, and I don’t use that term loosely, but, with Getz, I know that it applies. I don’t have the language, either in words or music, to describe what it is that Getz does, but, to me, I think of a figure skater taking off in full flight, doing three turns and three axels with pure grace and beauty and then landing on her feet as if it were all perfectly natural. You can listen to it here and perhaps you will hear what I heard.
I listened to this passage and I started laughing because I hadn’t heard it in a long time and I was flabbergasted and in awe at what just came out of the speaker.
The Lovely Mrs. JC rose from a slumber and asked: “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” I replied.
“Why were you laughing?”
“Did you hear that?” I replied.
“That,” I said. “That thing Getz just played. It was unbelievable.” Read more
By Al Perlman Editor and Publisher, Jazz Collector
To my regular Jazz Collector readers, I promise I will be back with a normal post on Tuesday. In the meantime, I ask for one final indulgence for this one final post so I can close the book on this Chasing Trane diversion.
First of all, I would like to let you all know that I am doing well. Since the election I have not turned on the television news or read any news or opinions in any periodical — print or online. It has been a blessing. My head is not clogged with useless information, my guts are not wrenched with fear, my vision is not clouded with images of people who spew hatred, vitriol and divisiveness.
Even better, I have begun to channel the spiritual awareness that the Coltrane documentary helped to inspire. I am walking down the street with a new energy that seems to be apparent because people are smiling at me and talking to me as never before. I am chatting with people in the elevator. I’ve reached out to friends that I have been estranged from for years. Plus, with my head cleared, I’ve had a burst of creative energy. The previous post on Chasing Trane is just one example. I am also doing great work for my clients and I am doing more writing on the side.
By Al Perlman Editor and Publisher, Jazz Collector
It is the day after Thanksgiving here in the States and one of the things I am grateful for is the new John Coltrane documentary Chasing Trane, written and directed by John Scheinfeld. I was fortunate to see this film on the closing night of DOC NYC, the New York documentary film festival. It was a week ago last Thursday and it has had a deep emotional impact on me that is still resonating, which I will discuss in a bit. But first let me tell you about the film.
First off, Scheinfeld is a terrific documentary filmmaker, IMHO. I am a huge fan of two of his earlier movies, The U.S. vs. John Lennon and Who is Harry Nilsson . . .? I knew virtually nothing about Nilsson when I watched that film and I’ve since recommended it to all of my friends and family, and now to all of my readers here at Jazz Collector. Perhaps because of Scheinfeld’s reputation, the Coltrane family welcomed him to do this film and gave him access to Coltrane’s music, archives and even home movies.
In Chasing Trane, Scheinfeld has created a moving and inspirational tribute to one of the great musicians and spiritual influences of our times. He uses film footage and photos of Coltrane, some never before seen, interspersed with comments from a wide range of friends, family, fans, biographers and other admirers. I was personally moved by the comments from Coltrane contemporaries and close friends, Jimmy Heath, Benny Golson and, especially, Sonny Rollins. And I was surprised and impressed by the depth of knowledge and connection to Coltrane’s music and spirit expressed by former President Bill Clinton. But I was not surprised by how often some of these commentators were at a loss for words to describe Coltrane’s music or his influence because, as Sonny says, the only way to truly understand and feel the music is Read more
The other night I was listening to Karrin Allyson, Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane. This was a 2002 Concord Jazz release that celebrated the great John Coltrane Ballads album on Impulse. I love the Allyson version, particularly since I really had never heard the lyrics to a couple of these songs, including Say It (Over and Over Again) and Too Young to Go Steady. Allyson uses three horn players on this record, Bob Berg, Steve Wilson and James Carter, and they each approach the Coltrane material in a very personal way. Her vocal interpretations are absolutely terrific. This is a great album and I recommend it highly. Which brings me to the point of this post. I’ve always been focused on vinyl and I never really took to CDs. I managed to buy a lot of CDs in the day, because they were convenient and I could put six into one of those Sony multi-players or into my car stereo and I wouldn’t have to get up off the sofa or fiddle around with the radio dial in the car. But whenever I wanted to really listen to music, it would always be vinyl.
This will be fun. Last night I had another one of those very pleasant listening sessions up in The Berkshires, fueled by a few beers, a few vapes and the knowledge that I could play my music as loud and late as I pleased with no neighbors or anyone else to complain. I was watching politics on television as I do so often these days, taking particular delight in the latest polls showing that the blowhard, maniac, crazy man at the top of the Republic ticket is in steep decline and, IMHO, may not even make it to election day without having some kind of collapse/mental breakdown, if, indeed, we could even tell the difference between a nervous breakdown and the behavior he exhibits every single day on the campaign trail. After a couple of hours of this I had enough and decided to enjoy some music. Read more
I go to sleep to music each night. I am still archaic enough to have an iPod and I have created about 50 playlists, all ballads and soft music, and I rotate among them and put them on random play. I find it quite soothing and relaxing and, apparently, so do my usual bedfellows, which would be The Lovely Mrs. JC and the two dogs Marty and Gordon. So last night I was listening and, at random, there came “Who Can I Turn To” by Dexter Gordon and then “Say It (Over and Over Again)” by John Coltrane, and I was listening very closely and both performances were quite lovely and brilliant in their own ways. And, of course, it got me to thinking about who are my favorite ballad players and what are my favorite ballad performances. And, of course, I couldn’t fall asleep because I was mentally going through all of my records and trying to pick out my favorite artists and performances. In the end, before I eventually nodded off, I came up with some thoughts and decided to share them here with you this morning. Read more
One of our readers living in Japan recently sent a note with a story to share so I said, please, write it up. He did and here it is:
By Stuart Levine
I am a regular reader (living in Japan), who especially enjoys Al’s record-collecting adventures. Well I have one of my own to share with the Jazz Collector community. It all started last September in Tokyo. I had heard of Disk Union and wanted to see it for myself. Perhaps, I could score on a nice LP. When I got off the train at my exit, I could immediately see it to my left – an impressive brick building with a large Disk Union window sign. The only problem was this was not the store noted for its jazz inventory. The real deal, Disk Union “Jazz Tokyo” was about six blocks away. Had it not been for a fellow Southern Californian (wearing a Dodgers cap) walking me over to the right store, I would have come away from this experience very disappointed. My good fortune really started when I was introduced to the head buyer of used jazz vinyl, a soft-spoken gentleman named Katsu. He invited me to come back three months later on Dec. 19th when the store was having a big Blue Note record sale, to the tune of 500 original mono and stereo LPs. Read more
I had a fun-filled evening listening to some lovely jazz vinyl last night. I had planned to stay up in the country to get some writing done – in the real world I get paid to write about information technology and business. For those of you who didn’t know that, now you do. I’ve had an inordinate amount of assignments lately, which is why I’ve been blogging less often than usual on Jazz Collector. When you’re writing 1,500 to 2,000 words every single day about some esoteric business or technology issue, sometimes the last thing you want to do is sit at the computer and compose something new. At least, that’s how it is for me. Anyway, I was expecting to experience the first tastes of spring up here in The Berkshires, but instead we’ve had a couple of days of snow and quite frosty temperatures. There must be 5-6 inches of snow on the ground. No spring at all. Anyway, I am up here alone together with my dog Marty, which means I can play whatever music I want at whatever volume I want. Marty is very considerate that way. I have a very nice system with a Linn Sondek turntable, Macintosh integrated amp and Wilson Sophia speakers. I also have about 6,000 records to choose from and, for last night, there was the availability of fresh stimulants for the mind, which never hurts either. Read more
So, back in the Bronx, I had a pile of about 50 records. Of the records in that pile there were probably about 10 that I really wanted. But I sensed that the woman wanted to get rid of records and taking more seemed like the right approach. So I made an offer that I thought was fair, considering the condition of the records and the reality that many of the records in the pile were relatively worthless. The offer came out of my mouth and the words were still just hanging in the air when I could see the woman physically recoil as if she had just swallowed a platter full of insects. She repeated the number I had just said and gasped: “The Jackie McLean record alone is worth more than that!” Which, to be fair, would have been true if the Jackie McLean record was in excellent condition. But it wasn’t. Then she started going through a list that she had compiled with values for some of the key records. But there was clearly a disconnect. All of the values she had compiled were for records in M- condition. The records in the pile were not in M- condition. None of them.