Samuel Chell | Kenosha,, WI United States | 06/14/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album belongs on any short, 5-6 album, list of John Coltrane recordings. It's indispensable if only for John's inspired playing on Billy Eckstein's "I Want to Talk About You" (also, available on the collection "The Gentle Side of John Coltrane." Surprisingly, many of the fans and musicians who rave about "My Favorite Things," "Giant Steps," and "A Love Supreme" are unaware of the stunning, pyrotechnical cadenza Trane played on this version of "I Want to Talk," which is equal to anything by Trane on record. I have a theory--I caught John at Birdland in '63, and his group was playing opposite the Terry Gibbs Quartet, featuring an attractive young pianist by the name of Alice McCleod. She captured not merely his eye and ear but his heart as well. If anyone belongs to the Promethean, Romantic tradition of visionary art, it's John Coltrane. He is jazz' foremost romantic poet, the musical equivalent of the Shelley of "To a Skylark." John was not only talking about love and freedom, he was talking about and to Alice, the soon-to-be Mrs. Coltrane.As inspired as his playing is on this recording, his performance of the same tune on "Soultrane" is also practically mandatory listening. Billy Eckstein wrote and performed the tune in C. John raised it to E flat, giving it a fresher, more floating quality (Miles had done exactly the same with "On Green Dolphin Street," issuing his first recording in C, his second a minor 3rd up). It's a lovely, simple 32 bar AABA song with unpretentious lyrics (you'll need to acquire the Eckstein version for those). But Trane mines meanings that go far beneath as well as beyond any verbal meanings. James Baldwin once wrote, "The only thing I know about music is that most people don't hear it." To hear the music of this performance of "I Want to Talk about You" is, in effect, to share the consciousness of jazz' Apollonian creative genius, and to be as much the recipient of the exquisite lyricism as the young lady who inspired it one night down at Birdland back in 1963."
Best Coltrane CD Ever
Karl Henzy | 05/13/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the best Coltrane CD, which is pretty equivalent to saying the best Jazz CD. Up until 1959's "Giant Steps," Coltrane, for all his talent, was still playing Bebop like his contemporaries. From 1965 to the end, starting with "Ascension" and "Meditations," Coltrane's bands played a manic, extremely harsh kind of sound that is perhaps for a small audience of devoted fans. In the window between those two periods, his classic quartet revolutionized jazz, yet generally kept things swinging. "Live at Birdland" maximizes this ideal period. "Afro-Blue" and "The Promise" have the kind of lyrical melodic line one finds in "Favorite Things," but Coltrane and pianist Tyner push their improvisations into ever new territory, while drummer Elvin Jones whips everyone into a frenzy. Tyner takes rhythmic elements and somehow opens them up into his solos, which sort of echoe and ring from the left hand to the right. Coltrane invests so much intensity into the B-section returns, with 16th and 32-notes exploding out of the spaces in the melodic line, that you think he's found an alternate route to nirvana, through passion rather than renunciation of passion. And then "Alabama" is just an unspeakably deep meditation on loss, and the coda to "I Want to Talk About You," with just Coltrane running up and down scales, is hard to believe. What can you say? These guys reach a level on this disc, a level that registers in the listener's mind as an absolute in his sense of what human's are capable of in the art of expression."
Nudging Love Supreme
G. Cornelius | Nashville, TN | 12/20/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is probably too late now to change the tide of jazz opinion, as the 20th century draws to a close. Critics and fans alike have been preaching the glory of Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" for over 30 years, and by now, its "Canonicity" in the Inspired Jazz Lexicon is hardly ever questioned. The only problem with that, is that many other albums of equal or greater glory tend to be shafted. "Live At Birdland" is one such entry. The Coltrane Quartet's creative output between '62-'65 is still unparalleled, and "Birdland" (from '63) captures them at their most cogent - nimbly walking the tightrope between chaos and serenity, between quick blasts of free jazz atonality and more accessible modal structures . From the glorious, pounding mayhem of "Afro Blue" (check your watch... 2 minutes 12 seconds into the cool groove comes an other-worldly scream from Trane that will make your hair stand on end!) to the soothing impressions of "I Want To Talk About You", "Birdland" balances the two extremes better than any other album of the period. For all the hoopla over "Love Supreme", (and most of it deserved) it has no whirlwind surging moments like "The Promise" or chilling reflections like "Alabama". Tight, to the point and urgent, this effort showcases the best of the John Coltrane Quartet's mighty power."
Coltrane v. Fat Freddie
L. Topper | 05/08/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This might be my favorite Coltrane record. The disc adds one song not on the lp--Vilia from the operetta "The Merry Widow." I really like it all-especially "I Want To Talk About You" and "Afro-Blue."
Afro Blue is wonderful because Coltrane plays a short introduction and then the rhythm section builds up tension as their playing continues to get more and more intense. Tyner and Jones are wildmen. Then Coltrane rips and tears his way through and soars over the top of the rhythm section for a marvelous cresciendo. The music still stays within some invisible boundary so that listeners turned off by "free jazz" are still satisfied.
When I was in college and we had stereo wars, I remember playing this song incredibly loud with Elvin Jones beating those drums as if his life depended on it. My neighbor, Fat Freddie, was simply playing some forgettable rock song trying to defend against the John Coltrane Qt. It was a lost cause.
Raw power on the hoof. This recording should not be missed."
A live recording of incredible power
G B | Connecticut | 07/23/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It may not have the overt spirituality of A Love Supreme, but Live at Birdland is one of the greatest recordings by the Classic Quartet. The performances of "Afro Blue" and "I Want to Talk About You", two live staples in this phase of Coltrane's career, are arguably the best on record. "Afro Blue" has an outstanding McCoy Tyner piano solo, while Elvin Jones thunders underneath; and when Trane comes in with that unearthly cry on soprano, Elvin EXPLODES (well, not literally - this isn't Spinal Tap). "I Want to Talk About You" has Trane turning the old Billy Eckstine ballad inside out, and then wrapping the performance up with an unaccompanied coda of sublime intensity. The third live tune, "The Promise", isn't as well known but equals the other two in quality. The album closes out with two more sedate studio tunes; the free-time ballad "Alabama" is a solemn meditation on then-recent church bombings, while "Your Lady" is a melodic romp as the JC Quartet knows best. Finally, there's a bonus track ("Vilia") which is not quite as great as the original album, but who's going to complain about additional material? This is one of the essential John Coltrane albums and not a bad place to start exploring his music."