This piece started out as a review of Grant Green’s 1979 Japan-only release Matador. Some consider it among his finest albums, after Idle Moments, of course, and arguably, Solid.
Just four tracks to choose from. Initially, I selected the Duke Pearson composition Bedouin, because I love the Wahoo! original, but then I recalled it had a long Elvin Jones drum solo and I don’t do long drum solos. Come the drum solo, I’m with the rest of the band heading off to the bar, return when it’s over. The title track Matador seemed a good if fairly conventional alternative: pure linear picking 1964 Grant Green. Green Jeans is another happy romp…but aren’t jeans, properly, blue? Oh, Green jeans, not the best play on words.
In truth, all the time, I was avoiding looking in the eye that Rogers and Hammersmith show-tune. The Sound of Music kept popping into my head: ♪♫♪These are a few of my favourite things…♪♫♪ . Julie Andrews in the 1965 film version, unconsciously, we all know the lyrics! Reminder:
“…Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things…”
“Brown paper packages tied up with strings” – ah, ding dong, door bell, another delivery from Ebay or Discogs. That’s certainly one of my favourite things!
As often happens, you take the obvious, and shake it around a bit, and a completely different bonus idea falls out. Who plays the same tune, My Favourite Things, on the soprano straight horn, 1960? Of course, Mr JC. And who does a better job of interpreting that Sound of Music tune? To my shame, the Coltrane was long overdue a spin. Of course, a good excuse to pull both versions off the shelf and embark on a journey of rediscovery.
Let’s see what we discover…
Grant Green: My Favourite Things (1964)
McCoy Tyner, piano; Grant Green, guitar; Bob Cranshaw, bass; Elvin Jones, drums recorded Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, May 20, 1964. McCoy Tyner revisits his 1960 version with Coltrane.
Coming four years after Coltrane positively owned the tune, it was a cheeky move for Grant to cover it. You wonder if that was an ill-fated decision at the time, perhaps why Alfred Lion opted finally not to release the recording session on Blue Note at the time. Perhaps he decided it was “Coltrane’s turf” after all.
LJC Learning point: Green or Coltrane? The question “which is better” is a bad question. It distracts you of attending to what is good in each. Answers are ten-a-penny. What the world needs today is smarter questions.
Grant Green pulls off a game effort, a modal canvas where the solos occur over a two chord vamp. Green sometimes resorts ill-advisedly to needle-stick repetition, for tension and release, but his luminous tone and well articulated ideas generally freewheel through the extended space. McCoy Tyner unfailingly adds interest in both background and foreground while Elvin Jones ensures the rhythmic flow with precise but restrained power.
Vinyl: GXF-3053 King Records, Japan, Stereo.
With four tracks each running around ten minutes or more, King were pushed to fit them all onto the vinyl. Note the skinny trail-off groove. Note also the incorrect 63rd address label. On a 1964 recording?
John Coltrane: My Favourite Things (1961)
John Coltrane, soprano, tenor sax; McCoy Tyner, piano; Steve Davis, bass; Elvin Jones, drums recorded NYC, October 21, 1960 engineers Tom Dowd and the unpronounceable Phil Iehle, Atlantic Studios, 1841 Broadway.
Considering The Sound of Music first hit Broadway in 1959, Coltrane recording the tune in 1960 was a very bold “popular music” step. The hills were alive, with the Sound of Coltrane. He pulled a similar stretch with Greensleeves on Africa Brass. Forsooth sire, I have a doublet and hose in my disposition (W. Shakespeare) Hey nonny no, well and good, but does it have green sleeves? (LJC)
An AllMusic user review kicks the ball straight into the net*: “Arguably John Coltrane’s most beloved and commercially successful album, “My Favourite Things” more than earns its vaunted reputation by reworking a group of standards, deconstructing them and grafting new avant-garde concepts to their framework, transforming them into masterpieces that transcend their source material in the process. The legendary title track starts things off, turning a simple standard with an irrepressibly catchy hook into a hypnotic, nearly fourteen minute long showcase for intricate modal soloing by both Coltrane and McCoy Tyner…”
If that is not technical enough for some, another user review helpfully adds: “My Favorite Things,” liberates the improvisor to play freely on scalar patterns within the framework of Ionian and Dorian modes.” Sometimes knowing the how doesn’t help appreciate the what.
(*The football reference is a follow on from yesterday’s World Cup match between England and Panama, which ended 6 – 1. My question, why only 6, slackers?)
Vinyl: ATL 5022 UK reissue of Atlantic LP 1361 mono
Original US Atlantic I have found something of a quality lottery. This UK reissue is from 1964, early enough, and pressed by the mighty Decca, New Malden.
And The Winner is: Julie Andrews…of course. Coming up next, the Sex Pistols punk anthem, I Am An Eidelweiss!
It is pure coincidence that this piece on Coltrane’s Favourite Things is published at the same time as the release of a lost Coltrane album from 1963, cleverly titled Both Directions at Once, at end of this month, June 29, on Verve Records.
Sonny Rollins writes in the liner notes, “like finding a new room in the Great Pyramid.”
With the discovery of the ¼”reference tapes that Coltrane took home with him after the recording session a session that was completely unknown and for which master tapes don’t exist an important chapter in the evolution of Coltrane’s music can now be heard for the first time.
The title suggest a session at the crossroads between Coltrane’s lyrical-expressive and exploratory directions, featuring the straight horn soprano, and our friends McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones in residence. Sounds promising musically, and miraculously, they have
the original master tape a copy “reference tape” of some kind. The question is, can Verve manufacture faithfully high-quality vinyl?
That answer remains to be heard.
Any thoughts on the lost Coltrane album from early purchasers will be particularly welcome at LJC, help readers decide if they too want to take the plunge. Any thoughts on anything else, the floor is yours, as always the last word.