John Coltrane as Sideman on "Side Steps" Completes Prestige
D. Berryman | Minneapolis, MN United States | 11/23/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What do give to the fan who has everything? A devoted John Coltrane fan may have every one his records, but John Coltrane also made outstanding contributions as a side man on other artists' records. Side Steps is the third and final set in the John Coltrane series of remastered studio sessions for Prestige Records. This collection is valuable not only because it documents some of Coltrane's pivotal session work, but also because it contains outstanding music from one of the most fertile periods in jazz performed by some of its finest practitioners.
There are ten LP albums represented in Side Steps, some in their entirety. The LP titles are Elmo Hope Sextet: Informal Jazz; Sonny Rollins: 'Tenor Madness'; Tadd Dameron: 'Mating Call'' Mal Waldron: 'Mal/2' and 'The Dealers', the Red Garland Quintet: 'All Mornin' Long', 'Soul Junction', 'High Pressure' and 'Dig It!'; Gene Ammons' All Stars: 'The Big Sound and Groove Blues'; and the Ray Draper Quintet: 'New Jazz'. Other than Tenor Madness, these are not very high-profile jazz albums and perhaps, because of that, they are rarely heard. This makes this remastered set an excellent selection for the Coltrane collector or anyone interested in late '50s hard-bop. It's nice to hear something new, even if it is 50 years old.
In Side Steps the 43 tracks are presented in the order they were recorded, rather than as they were released on LP albums. The most famous track in this set documents a historic moment with Coltrane trading solos with Sonny Rollins on the 12-minute title track of Rollins' 'Tenor Madness'. These two tenor titans only recorded together this one time and only a single track, despite the fact that they greatly admired each other's work.
A particular favorite track of mine is Mal Waldron's poignant arrangement of "Don't Explain" on disc 2 from Waldron's LP, Mal/2. It begins slowly with the bass playing pedal point on 2 and 4 with light drums and Donald Byrd's trumpet soulfully playing the melody, punctuated by dissonant piercing tones from the saxophones. On the bridge, Coltrane's tenor blends beautifully with Jackie McLean's alto in harmony. Byrd lays down a bluesy solo and Coltrane follows, managing to squeeze a dazzling amount of music into a few bars without altering the mood. The head arrangement is repeated and the tune ends as it began with bass on 2 and 4 and light drums.
Another interesting combination is Coltrane playing with Ray Draper on tuba. The contrast between the sounds of the instruments is striking, particularly when they play in unison, and the tuba provides a rich depth of sound for the tenor to solo over.
This also is the time when Coltrane started developing his so-called "sheets of sound" and Side Steps contains many marvellous examples of these extremely dense improvisational lines, consisting of high speed arpeggios and scales played in rapid succession over the changes. A good example is his blistering solo on Charlie Parker's "Billies Bounce" on disc 4 from the Red Garland Quintet's 'Dig It!' album.
To document this collection. Side Steps comes with a booklet that contains photos from the recording sessions and reproductions of all of the original album cover art as well as all of the original LP liner notes by Ira Gitler, Nat Hentoff, Joe Goldberg, and Michael Gold. The booklet also includes detailed session logs and extensive commentary by Ashley Kahn, including an interview with Prestige Records founder Bob Weinstock.
There are other notable sidemen appearing on this collection alongside John Coltrane, including Pepper Adams on baritone sax; Donald Byrd and Idrees Sulieman on trumpets; Paul Chambers on bass; Philly Joe Jones, Art Taylor and Ed Thigpen on drums; Jackie McLean on alto; Hank Mobley and Paul Quinichette on tenor sax; Jerome Richardson on flute; and Sahib Shihab on alto & baritone.
This is an excerpt from a review that originally appeared on [...]"
I. Zopen | Bronx, NY | 12/02/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Why the hesitancy to give it five stars? Of the 3 recent Prestige Coltrane box sets, to me this is the one to acquire. Serious Coltrane collectors will already have nearly all the material that Coltrane recorded under his own name, but it would take some very tenacious collecting to obtain all of these 'sideman' recordings. I'm not a shill for Prestige, but in this case: why not let them make it easy for you? These are all eminently enjoyable and important sides and provide lots of good listening, at a fraction of what it would cost to obtain these recordings individually. You really can't go wrong. Whether you are a Coltrane disciple or just getting interested, this is a fine collection. There is no down side."
On a Misty Night
Dennis Sullivan | Jackson, TN | 01/04/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 3rd collection of Coltrane's Prestige recordings contains one of my favorite jazz pieces by anyone, "On a Misty Night". True, John was only a side-man on the cut, but he really makes it his own piece with its gently rolling and lilting buildup. It is a textbook example of his 50's progressive bop sound, yet it wouldn't have sounded at all out of place on his '62 "Ballads" lp. I've worn out my cassette copy of this over the years, so I truly welcome this remastered cut along with the other goodies to be found on this fine set."