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‘Coltrane Live At Birdland’: John Coltrane’s Soaring Live Set

If you want to let someone hear what Coltrane is all about, then this is as good a place as any to start.

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Coltrane Live At Birdland

On 8 October 1963, John Coltrane, along with pianist McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison on double bass and drummer Elvin Jones were at Birdland, and a part of their performance was captured on tape by Rudy Van Gelder.

Released in 1964, Coltrane Live At Birdland became ‘Trane’s second live album on impulse!, although only three of the five tracks on the original LP release were actually from the gig at the famous Manhattan club; the other two are from a session at Van Gelder’s Englewood Cliffs studio a little over a month later.

The three tracks from Birdland are Mongo Santamaria’s ‘Afro-Blue’, Billy Eckstine’s ‘I Want To Talk About You’ and ‘The Promise’, a Coltrane original. The Eckstine song was originally recorded by Coltrane on his 1958 album Soultrane and here it features a superb extended cadenza that lasts over eight minutes.

Listen to Coltrane Live At Birdland right now.

A week or so after the Coltrane Live at Birdland recording the band headed to Europe where they played gigs in Stockholm, Oslo, Gothenburg, Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin and Stuttgart over a three-week period. The subsequent session at Van Gelder’s yielded two more Coltrane originals, ‘Your Lady’ and Alabama’.

The latter track is Coltrane’s tribute to the four children killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, in Birmingham, Alabama by white supremacists. The album’s original pressing accidentally included a false start, which was corrected in later copies, but restored to the CD edition that also included another track, ‘Vilia’ which uses a melody from the Franz Lehár’s ‘Vivias”’, with chord changes and a great deal more swing.

Critics have called this “Coltrane’s finest all-around album” and it’s impossible to disagree. The playing of Tyner is brilliant throughout, especially on ‘The promise’ and as we’ve already mentioned the cadenza on ‘I Want To Talk About You’ is outstanding, made even more remarkable by the way that ‘Trane never looses sight of the fact that this is a beautiful ballad. If you want to let someone hear what Coltrane is all about, then this is as good a place as any to start.

Coltrane Live At Birdland can be bought here.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Art Terrero

    October 9, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    I was in Birdland when Coltrane played there. I also caught Coltrane in Slugs several times when he worked there with Monk. Also at the Village Vanguard with Miles and with Eric Dolphy when I worked
    as a bartender at the Village Gate.

    • Steve Miller

      February 27, 2016 at 2:03 am

      You’re a lucky man. I caught Trane several times in SF at the Jazz Workshop & one time at Stanford with Monk. They played with their own bands. Life changing experiences. I was only 16-17 yo & had to stand outside the club but the energy was so intense I had to sometimes walk away. Trane is a Saint. The music world will never catch up to where he was at.

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