JOHN COLTRANE — My Favorite Things (review)

JOHN COLTRANE — My Favorite Things album cover Album · 1961 · Hard Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Sean Trane
If Coltrane’s previous Atlantic label albums (Giant Steps and Coltrane Jazz) still had an old style of jazz, MFT is definitely taking a GIANT LEAP here, and his future forays in modal jazz improvisations take roots in the present opus’ two lengthy tracks. By this time, Coltrane had found an intuitive drummer in Elvin Jones, ones that would play more with him than with the drummer, and even more special, he had just found THE pianist that would help develop the transcendental moods he needed for Coltrane to become Trane. Indeed, a considerable part of Trane’s ascensional departure is to be attributed to McCoy Tyner’s outstanding and groundbreaking piano work, not least because of his unusually gifted left hand use.

One might consider MFT as the “hinge album” (or at least “one of them”) in Coltrane’s career, because while it is still very much a trad-jazz album (all four tracks are old standard reprises), yet Coltrane and Tyner go in lengthy modal explorations. Don’t get me wrong, we’re still far away from ALS or Ascenscion, but the seeds are planted in what would really become Trane’s Favourite Things, since he will rework that tune almost right up to the end of his all-too-short career. Right from Tyner’s instantly recognizable first notes, you know something will happen different than the ground covered in most of the great jazzmen in the 50’s (of which Coltrane was one of them). Yup, even the greater piano players of the previous two decades (beit Powell, Ellington, Monk or B. Evans), Tyner’s inimitable ivory ticklings are out of this world (well that world back then, anyway).

It’s rather unfortunate that this awesome 13-mins+ not-so standard cover is followed by a lacklustre Everytime that breaks the spell (I was never much a Porter fan), especially in the CD version, where it is sandwiched between the other giant tune, Gershwin’s Summertime. Again Tyner’s piano makes the difference between Trane’s version and all of the previous and future reprises. The album ends with another (but this time over-elongated and aptly-titled) Gershwin tune But Not For Me.

Of course what you’ll hear in this album will find much more space in future albums, including his next Africa/brass (his first for the Impulse! label) and a little later in Olé Coltrane (his last Atlantic label album) and so forth. So while this album has a very commercial appeal, since its title track was Trane’s best known number/hit, but it’s also the start of his more experimental and transcendental albums, a period that will culminate with A Love Supreme. As a matter of fact, MFT and Olé could’ve easily been Impulse! label albums.

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