September 13, 2015

John Coltrane - Ballads (1962)


John Coltrane may not have been in all-out maximalist free jazz mode in 1962, but after his use of two basses on the Ole Coltrane epic, his collaborations with Eric Dolphy, and his Chasing The Train recording, a good portion of the jazz world at the time would deem him crazy. Little did they know right? In an effort to reacquire his past audiences with more traditional tastes, Impulse wanted to prove that Coltrane could still play melodically with no over-blowing; the albums Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, and Ballads were three attempts at keeping Coltrane connected with the critical conservative jazz clique.

In my opinion I think that Coltrane's playing on Ballads is much more refined than his bop and ballad work with Miles Davis in the 50s and proves that his growing introspection and spirituality made contributions to more musical styles than just long modal excursions and free jazz. The rest of the quartet is in prime form on Ballads, but this is an album on which Coltrane really takes full command; his intonation is stunning and his intense connection with emotion even more-so. The notes become so fleshed out and alive that they just seem to transcend any concept of a musical instrument. I think Coltrane put more power and creative force behind Ballads than he thought and left us with one of the most beautiful and powerful albums ever made.