THE COMPLETE 1961 VILLAGE VANGUARD RECORDINGS--
John Coltrane--tenor sax / Eric Dolphy--alto sax, bass clarinet /Ahmed Abdul-Malik--oud / McCoy Tyner--piano Jimmy Garrison--bass Reggie Workman--bass / Elvin Jones--drums.
From the four CD set, the first disc alone is mightily impressive for sheer stamina , and many sections of sublime improvisation. Jones rattles the traps in brisk rhythms, while Coltrane sets fires throughout the side. There are times when 'Coltrane gives in to his worse impulses--but these are brief enough, as Dolphy's alto playing, and his work with the bass clarinet, is enough to make me almost believe that there is a heaven. His bristling inventiveness, his inspired and assertive leaps between intervals, pitches, tones, and harmonic constructions approach enter the realm of pure avant garde sonics, but there is as well a sense of his spontaneous compositions remaining anchored in the bop tradition. These assets make him a perfect counterpart to Coltrane, whose rapidity of ideas, one chorus after the other extending a melody's potential to sustain a flood of brilliantly articulated notes , gives the whole of this four CD set a sustained, spell binding allure. What had seemed alien to mainstream, bop-preferring audiences as radical and un-jazz like at the time is now a given in the repertoire of younger improvisers. There is not a musician today who can match John Coltrane for the furious ingenuity that came from his soul by way of his instrument. Modal and operating on a rhythmic principle that makes me think of W.C.Williams' alluring yet elusive notion of the 'variable foot" of rhythm--cadences and stresses are constantly changing into nearly perfect accents based on the vocalizations of a word arranged in spontaneous combination that convey meaning and purpose in sound as well as strict definitions--Elvin Jones and Reggie Workman construct an ever-evolving foundation , a brooding firmament on which Coltrane, Tyner and Dolphy overlay a delicious and difficult weave of odd moods and desperate beauty. This is the kind of music that makes me sometimes think that I was born twenty years too late.