John Coltrane, Coltrane (1957) Esquire

Track Selection: Chronic Blues


Johnny Splawn (tp) John Coltrane (ts) Sahib Shihab (bars) Mal Waldron or Red Garland (p) Paul Chambers (b) Albert Heath (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, May 31, 1957

John Coltrane! Sahib Shihab!!! Light green cover!


Coltrane’s 1957 debut, not to be confused with the 1962 Impulse of the same name,  his first album as leader, on Prestige. Shortly after Coltrane was fired from the Miles Davis Quintet for drug-related issues,  Bob Weinstock opportunistically seized the moment and offered Coltrane a recording contract for three albums per year at $300 per album, or $2,500 an album in todays money. Several of the titles are dedications to kicking heroin , including the selection, Chronic Blues.

Though some critics questioned the choice of Sahib, coming on the heels of two baritones in Dakar, the combination of Splawn’s  trumpet and Shihab’s baritone adds a lot of complementary texture to Coltrane’s tenor, and Mal Waldron of course offers darker colours than Red. I rebuke the critics: Sahib Shihab, along with Tina Brooks, belong in The Pantheon of Jazz Heros, which incidentally contains no critics.

Cover: Esquire vs Prestige grudge match

Phew this is a tough choice. The Prestige cover is iconic, one of the finest portraits ever taken of John Coltrane, monumental, powerful, brooding and profound. The Esquire is, umm,  light green. By way of a tie-breaker, the Esquire has the track listing on the front as well, saving you the effort of turning it over. Think of the energy saved!

I know what you’re thinking, it’s very close, but the fact the Esquire track listing fails to capitalise all words in the titles, it loses on spelling and grammar. Jeez we Brits invented the language, and we fail on spelling. A bummer eh?

Vinyl: Esquire 32-079, UK release of Prestige 7105

The Matrix:

Usual Prestige US stamper hallmarking.

The rear cover condition can only be described as “grubby”, not helped by the origami-like jacket fold-over construction.

Collectors Corner

Source Ebay

Sellers Description: Cover: Wear-damage / repair at open edge; Record: EX-very thick vinyl; Other: Made in England

I am not sure that “Made in England” was a particularly good selling point, but the selling price was mercifully modest.

Top copies of the Prestige 7105 sell for just under $1,000. At best a copy of the Esquire fetched around a quarter, $274, in a US auction in February this year, with the buy-line as follows: “ONE OF JOHN COLTRANES FINEST MOMENTS FOR SURE.  RVG DG MONO.  JACKET IS NM.  RARELY SEEN LP.  PLAYS SUPERB.  THIS LP IS TRULY SPECIAL.  THE ESQUIRE PRESSING SMOKES THE PRESTIGE PRESSINGS OF THE SAME TIME AND JUST HAS A BETTER SOUND, JUST OUTSTANDING!”

It has to be the cover holding down its value. Mint green, with song-titles not capitalised. Not England’s finest hour really.

1 thought on “John Coltrane, Coltrane (1957) Esquire

  1. One of my favorites! Once I heard the polyrhythms of ‘Bakai’ I was hooked for sure. I believe this was the very first recording session Coltrane participated in after his storied detox in Philadelphia. To me, you can hear a focus on this record that was not present in any of his earlier recordings and was harbinger of music to come.

    Also, another wonderful Esmond Edwards cover. Here’s the original photograph:

    The American release seems to come in at least two variations: red tint and yellow tint. I have a very nice blue label etched-RVG pressing which features the yellowish tint, though I’m not sure the color is identical to the original pressing.

    Quite a cover discrepancy between the Prestige pressing and the Esquire! It’s evocative of the generic product packaging which used to be found in grocery stores. I can see strolling down the aisle with my cart: ‘Beans’… ‘Soda’… ‘Coltrane’…

    Speaking of Esquire: I am expecting my very first Esquire pressing in the mail any day now. You’d better keep a lid on the pressing quality if you want to continue to get them on the cheap 🙂

    “Sahib Shihab, along with Tina Brooks, belong in The Pantheon of Jazz Heros, which incidentally contains no critics.”

    One of my favorite quotes from Igor Stravinsky:

    “I had a dream the other day about music critics. They were small and rodent-like with padlocked ears, as if they had stepped out of a painting by Goya.”


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