CD REVIEW: John Coltrane – European Tour 1961

John Coltrane – European Tour 1961
(Le Chant du Monde 574274551- 3149024274558 . CD review by Nick Davies) 

To mark the 50th anniversary of John Coltrane’s passing on 17 July 1967, a box set of the 1961 European Tour by French label Le Chant du Mont has been released. This is the first time the material has been available, other than as a bootleg copy, and serves as a historical record even if the audio quality is not perfect.

It includes music from Coltrane’s Paris, Copenhagen, Helsinki and Stockholm shows, as well as unexpected treasures from his Stuttgart and Berlin gigs and a bonus set from Coltrane’s first European visit in March 1960 (Dusseldorf) as part of the Miles Davies Quintet. The 1961 tour featured the quintet of John Coltrane (tenor & soprano saxophones), Eric Dolphy (alto saxophone, bass clarinet and flute), McCoy Tyner (piano), Reggie Workman (bass) and Elvin Jones (drums).

Critiquing classic songs like Blue Train is difficult, particularly when trying to avoid repeating previous reviews. However, in a live setting these little gems showcase Coltrane as a master improviser, each song played in a unique way across the concert series. For example, on My Favourite Things, the tune is instantly recognisable despite being delivered differently in the each show. This impressive collection boasts live recordings of the following tracks: Impressions, I Want To Talk About You, Blue Train, My Favourite Things, Delilah, Every Time We Say Goodbye, Naima, On Green Dolphin Street, Walkin’, The Theme, Autumn Leaves, What’s New, Moonlight In Vermont and Hackensack.

Brilliant interplay between all the band’s musicians is an indication of a terrific rhythm section. Although Tyner and Dolphy, at times, rival Coltrane’s first-rate playing, no one musician outshines the other; instead it highlights the tightness of the band.≈

Overall, this inspired collection takes the listener back in time to one of the great tours of the 1960s. Featuring several of the same tunes, the set brings the 57-year-old concert series into the modern age, enabling the listener to make comparisons and to experience much celebrated improvisation. This release is an excellent introduction to Coltrane’s music, but it’s also guaranteed to hook even the hesitant enthusiast.

Categories: miscellaneous

3 replies »

  1. Thanks for the review. Whilst it might be overly optimistic to expect decent sound quality I wonder just how imperfect “even if the audio quality is not perfect” really means? Can you contrast the SQ to other Coltrane live recordings or even other live recordings of the time?

  2. Nick Davies has replied:

    The point I was making that it was not digitally enhanced and not of the quality we would expect today. The audio is better than the bootleg versions I have heard and far better than some other recordings I have heard from that period eg Miles Davis. I have also heard poor quality live audio today This was more an observation not a criticism as some listeners especially those not familiar with recordings of that period might expect better so managing expectation. Overall I loved it and look forward to the 1962 Tour release.

  3. I think MJG was just trying to get a sense of how good the CDs sound (tone, clarity etc.), not expressing criticism. For myself, I'd like to know if this package overlaps with other releases commonly available on CD.

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