In early 1963 John Coltrane said, “I was really honoured to have the opportunity of working with Duke. It was a wonderful experience. He has set standards I haven’t caught up with yet. I would have liked to have worked over all those numbers again, but then I guess the performances wouldn’t have had the same spontaneity. And they mightn’t have been any better.” ‘Trane is referring to his 1963 impulse! album, Duke Ellington & John Coltrane that was recorded on 26 September 1962 at Rudy Van Gelder’s Englewood Cliff’s Studio.
It was, unusually for Duke Ellington, a small group recording on which Jimmy Garrison and Aaron Bell shared the bass duties and Elvin Jones and Sam Woodyard split the drum playing.
During the early 1960s Ellington made many collaborative recordings, including with Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Max Roach, and Charles Mingus, but this is one of his most successful, due in no small part to the brilliance of Coltrane’s playing.
Sixty-three year old Ellington was even then a jazz legend having honed his chops, although for the most elegant man in jazz, ‘chops’ is somehow inappropriate, at Harlem’s Cotton Club in the 1920s. For 36-year-old Coltrane this album was in a similar, more accessible area to his Johnny Hartman and Ballads albums recorded around the same time.
What is so very beautiful about this record is the way the two jazz giants compliment each other so perfectly. Neither Duke nor ‘Trane attempts to take-over the recording, neither one wants to ‘cut’ the other. They clearly relish the environment and this is one of the most delightful albums to be issued by impulse! in the first few years of its existence – helped by Van Gelder’s brilliance aided by producer Bob Thiele.
The album features Ellington standards including, ‘In a Sentimental Mood’, new Ellington compositions, including the playful, ‘Take The Coltrane’ and one new and a new Coltrane composition, ‘Big Nick’. These jazz geniuses are clearly comfortable in one another’s company and you’ll be very comfortable in theirs.
Duke Ellington & John Coltrane can be bought here.