These five albums recorded by John Coltrane span a mere 20 months of recording and features much of his early work as a band leader, following his tenure with Miles Davis’s band. All were recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Hackensack, New Jersey, with the earliest session dating from 20 April 1957 when ‘Trane and a 5 piece band were billed as The Prestige All Stars.
The album was Dakar, and along with Coltrane’s tenor saxophone there’s Cecil Payne (baritone sax), Pepper Adams (baritone sax), Mal Waldron (piano), Doug Watkins (bass), and Art Taylor (drums). From the Latin-tinged title track to the soulful, ‘Mary’s Blues’ to ‘Route 4’, which may well be the strongest track this album is a delight.
The following year Coltrane released Lush Life, probably one of his strongest releases for Prestige. This album spanned three sessions, the first from May 1957 produced just one track, ‘I Hear A Rhapsody’ that features a quartet including Red Garland (piano) Paul Chambers (bass) Albert Heath (drums). Two and a half months later it was just a trio recording the bulk of the album, with Earl May (bass) and Art Taylor (drums); the standout from this session is ‘Like Someone in Love’. The album was completed with a session in January 1958 featuring a quintet that included, Donald Byrd (trumpet) Red Garland (piano) Paul Chambers (bass) Louis Hayes (drums). They extend Billy Strayhorn’s ‘Lush Life’ to fourteen minutes and it is a masterpiece…pure and simple.
Soultrane dates from a February 1958 session with Coltrane joined by Red Garland (piano) Paul Chambers (bass) and Art Taylor (drums) and it’s an album deserving of way more attention. From the up tempo bop of Irving Berlin’s ‘Russian Lullaby’ to beautiful ballads, ’I Want to Talk About You’ and ‘Theme for Ernie’ to the mid tempo, ‘Good Bait’ this will in no way disappoint.
Bahia recorded in July 1958 with Wilbur Harden (flugelhorn, trumpet). Red Garland (piano). Paul Chambers (bass) and Jimmy Cobb (drums) and concluded the day after Christmas, the same year, with Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Red Garland (piano). Paul Chambers (bass) and Art Taylor (drums) this album is the bluesiest of all the five albums included in the box; it was not released until 1965,
Despite its title, The Last Trane was neither Coltrane’s last recording or even his final recording for Prestige. ‘Slowtrane (Trane’s Slow Blues)’ dates from August 1957 and comes from a Soultrane session featuring Coltrane, Earl May (bass) and Art Taylor (drums). ‘Come Rain or Come Shine’ and ‘Lover’ date from the Lush Life session featuring Donald Byrd (trumpet), Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass) and Louis Hayes (drums). ‘By The Numbers’ comes from March 1958 and includes, Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass) and Art Taylor (drums). While this album on its own would not be considered essential listening if it was almost any other artist, because it’s Coltrane it will not disappoint.