John Coltrane Giant Steps (1960)

Coltrane-Giant-Steps-London-cover1800-LJC-2

Track Selection: Giant Steps

Artists

John Coltrane (ts) Wynton Kelly or Tommy Flanagan (p) Paul Chambers (b) Jimmy Cobb or Art Taylor (d) Engineer Tom Dowd, recorded NYC, December 2, 1959

Music

What can you say? Coltrane’s crowning achievement. Entry for top ten finest jazz records ever. Bow down and worship, we are not worthy.

His arpeggiated chord progressions are a delight, being “in three keys B, G and Eb, shifted by major thirds, creating an augmented triad, which could easily be inverted as descending major sixths”. Technically, words describe music, but somehow miss capturing the enjoyment of  listening. I prefer Miles Davis’s description “Trane was the loudest fastest saxophonist I have ever heard.. It was like he was possessed when he put that horn in his mouth, so passionate – fierce…”

I am sure I had this recording for years tucked away somewhere on a 10 CD compilation of “Jazz to do the ironing  to“, but the listening experience flows in part from the sacred ritual of mounting the record on the turntable, sitting back, and giving it all your attention. It is a full-time task listening to such concentrated music. And exhausting. The ironing will have to wait.

Vinyl: London LTZ-K 15197

British original pressing by  Decca from 1960. Not unlike having Coltrane playing in your living room.

Decca engineering, superb pressing to complement superb music.

Coltrane-Giant-Steps-London-backr1800-LJC-2

Collectors Corner

Source: Ebay                                                                                                           Sellers Grading:Record Condition: VG++ or a lot better. Sleeve Condition: VG++/Excellent. NO rips, creases or writing. The record is in near excellent condition ~ an occasional light mark doesn’t affect play. Minimum background noise. The sleeve is very good (nearer excellent.) Bit of age discolour on back and a tiny bit of writing.”

It has been a long wait, but finally, I have my own copy of a record that everyone should own, and probably everyone already owns apart from me. A late starter, but better late than never.   Another sniper doubled the cost in the last second, an irritation as they appeared to be a dealer (3,190 scalps, 182 bids on records last 30 days). I don’t mind a shootout between jazz lovers but dealers are a pest in my view. Down to chance which of us came up with the right number. For once, our bids were literally only a couple of pounds apart, precision shooting.

The description VG++ or better covers a lot of bases. The vinyl is not perfect, couple of tics here and there, and a short unobtrusive scratch in the closing seconds of one side, and despite having “no writing” and at the same time ” a tiny bit of writing” you don’t mind someone noting the date of acquisition as 1963, one year short of fifty years ago. That is a historical artefact, and less obtrusive than “Happy Birthday, Richard, xxx Mum” found on the back of one of my Blue Notes.

Better perhaps to have an original US copy. I was offered one once, but asking way too much. This will do nicely, I am content, the holy grail search list just dropped one.

Update October 14, 2015:

Two Giant Steps – cover variation (LJC – left) back cover writing “bought 1963” – not bought new immediately after release but three years later, possibly, or bought second-hand a copy which was new on release.  How do we know if the one on the right was bought on release? It may have been, or not. Whatever… both “original” as in “not a later re-issue”

coltrane-giant-two-steps-1800

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29 thoughts on “John Coltrane Giant Steps (1960)

  1. Resurrecting this old thread because I have to disagree on 1 big point here…The 70’s red/green labels should not be discarded…George Piros mastered some of these and they are awesome…Better than the Rhino reissues, IMHO….If you see AT/GP in deadwax, buy it…!

    • The vinyl/labels appear identical, as are the matrix codes. There may be some stamper differences but it’s not visible on Ebay. The jacket printers are St James Press in both cases, in my case “of London and Edenbridge” on the Ebay of “London SE1” The front covers are identical except for the repetition of the “London” logo both left and right on the Ebay copy.

      They are both Decca UK manufacture from copy tape, two different print runs. My guess is the UK release sold better than expected and Decca commissioned another printing and pressing run, within a short space of time. By definition one must be earlier than the other, but having looked at them both, no, I have no idea which is the “first” cover. Maybe I have missed something.

    • Both are original, no doubt about that. The “half moon” flip-over on the rear has been the common feature of London albums up to and incl. 15193. There after London albums came in various modes, half moon or straight line flip overs, or no flip over.
      My 15194 has a straight flip over, my 15197 a half moon flip over and my 15199 no flip over. The three are review copies which I acquired when the albums were issued.

    • I bought a clean US red/purple “white fan” copy (3rd pressing) to compare to my rough black label and they had the exact same deadwax etching. The sound was pretty similar overall but the black label copy was pressed on quieter vinyl under all the tics and pops. I prefer Giant Steps in mono, it has more vibrancy and drive, the stereo sounds too soft and distant to me so the red/purple copies are a nice, affordable way to hear it in mono. The green/red 1970’s copies are stereo only and a are notch above the current Rhino reissue which shows evidence that the tape is no longer in good condition.

      • Hi Aaron, I was wondering when you said the current Rhino release are you talking about the reissue from 2010 or early 2000s? I’ve read that the 180 gram reissue from 2010 is actually very good and was remastered by Bernie Grundman.

        Just trying to get to the bottom of this – I’m not a big fan of reissues (hence my enjoyment of LJC’s fine site!) and part of the problem is that even reissues from the same company (Rhino in this case) apparently don’t do a good job of clearly marking the covers in cases like “Giant Steps” or “My Favorite Things” when they’ve reissued the title more than once; ultimately a practice that frustrates / annoys consumers.

        I have an early bull’s eye mono pressing but it plays with some surface noise and it might prove difficult to score one in better condition without paying an arm and a leg so hopefully you (or anyone else for that matter) might have some helpful info on the Rhino reissues.

        • Hi Bob,
          I was referring to this 180g 33rpm copy from 2005 that was mastered by Kevin Gray: http://www.discogs.com/John-Coltrane-Giant-Steps/release/1151131
          The Bernie Grundman mastered copy from 2010, which I haven’t heard, was 45rpm but both of these reissues are stereo. On the Kevin Gray copy there are audible problems with the tape, including fluttering, that aren’t present in the 1970’s reissues or earlier. IMHO you are going to be hard pressed to beat your bull’s eye mono copy without spending big bucks.

          • Oh ok, thanks Aaron for the info. Sadly, the mono bull’s eye pressing I bought recently wasn’t anywhere close to the VG+ grading it was given by the seller (of course I’m no mudslinger and it’s against LJC’s appropriate policies anyway to ‘name names’!) and the surface noise was pretty unbearable at points. So back it goes today – boo hoo. The hunt will continue for me. I just don’t know that I can get comfortable with those Rhino reissues the more I read about them. Any thoughts on the Japanese Warner Pioneer blue / green stereo pressings of “Giant Steps”? Thanks again.

          • Also, I noticed someone said something maybe on Hoffman about the ‘booming bass.’ I found that the bass did seem louder than usual even in the early mono pressing so I guess it’s just how the mix was done originally as opposed to a shortcoming from the reissue. Just something to live with I guess…..

            • You should be able to find a white or black fan plum/red mono pressing that won’t break the bank and will sound terrific. It’s not as sexy as the original black label, but it’s essentially the same record.

              I am personally not a fan of the blue/green Atlantic pressings of Coltrane’s records. I had a blue/green white fan of Giant Steps and sold it to get a mono because the stereo separation was pronounced and jarring to me. I initially loved it – because the sound was terrific – but the separation got to me after a while.

              • Thanks, Joe for the response. I guess I’ll just keep holding out until I score an early mono pressing then. It’s a shame about the background noise on the mono bull’s eye I just returned. In places where it wasn’t overwhelming the music, that thing really sounded beautiful and I wish I could’ve been satisfied by it.

                I guess I haven’t spent enough time listening to the “My Favorite Things” blue / green to be bothered by the separation. I’ll keep an eye out for the white or black fan plum / red pressing. If everyone else could just let me find one at a reasonable price and then carry on with their record hunting that would be great haha!

                • Sorry, now that I read your earlier post, I should have just written “I agree with everything Aaron just said.”

                  It’s so tantalizing to hear a beat-up top-notch original pressing, isn’t it? I have a few BN Lexingtons that are pleasant enough, but with some marks and noise. You can hear the lovely clear sound right through the noise. It’s sooooo close . . . yet so far away.

                  (By the way, thanks for the label guide on your website. I’ve consulted that more than once!)

                  • I’d rather have record with great tone that shines through the surface noise vs. one pressed on silent vinyl that sounds lifeless. Glad my label guide has helped out!

                    • To clarify my comment, unfortunately the surface noise on my badly overgraded bull’s eye copy of “Giant Steps” (seller said it was ‘VG+’ which was perfectly acceptable to me but in reality it might have been ‘G+’ at the very best) DID outweigh the music in many places and was too overwhelming for me to deal with. I am pretty stalwart about NOT having to go the reissue route and will just keep after that as much and as long as I can to get a better sounding early mono pressing even if it’s not a bull’s eye pressing. To make a bad pun, had the seller not been so ‘off target’ with his grading, I’d still have that early pressing today….sorry, had to go there….

                    • Completely agree. Some of my most treasured, and most listened to, LPs are less-than-perfect.

    • I have an orange (red)/purple Atlantic (mono US) pressing and it sounds absolutely stellar. My only complaints (about the mono mix, not the pressing) are the nuances of the drums can be heard with much more clarity in the (super-wide) stereo mix, and Coltrane is perhaps a *tad* loud in the mono mix, but overall I prefer the mono…the spread on the stereo is just too jarring.

  2. Good, isn’t it!

    I have a second pressing (Stereo) – white fan green labels. Would love a mono too. Nice to see its on Decca also. By the way is your LT series listing (above) the full list of releases or just the releases you own?

    I picked up a copy of Art Blakey – Cu-bop on Decca (London) the other day, but it doesn’t seem to be on your list. Recommended by the way.

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