Discovering a gem from John Coltrane
Posted by keithosaunders on March 13, 2010
Yesterday I heard a track from John Coltrane that I had previously never heard. It’s called Villa and it was recorded in March of 1963 at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio. Previously unreleased, it was included on a CD remastering of Coltrane Live At Birdland in the mid 1990s.
There doesn’t seem to be much information about the track other than it is an old standard once performed by Artie Shaw. It was not unusual for Trane to uncover underplayed gems — Matt Dennis’ Violets For Your Furs, and Hoagy Carmichael’s Little Old Lady are just two examples. Even though Coltrane’s music was evolving in the direction of the avant-garde, employing long, modal vamps infused with drummer Elvin Jones’ dense polyrhythms, it still retained elements of lyricism that were astounding.
What is so striking about this track is the restraint of the four musicians. Trane is on soprano, and Elvin begins the song using brushes. This is their version of ‘tippin’ — the music is at a simmer, but it hints at raw power. They’re like a high performance sports car that’s riding in a low gear.
All About Jazz critic C. Michael Baily wrote, …if the listener wishes to hear the master in transition, look no further than Coltrane Live at Birdland. I disagree. I believe that Coltrane’s playing was in constant transition throughout his career. Contrast him with the other major band leader of the 1960s, Miles Davis, whose sound remained constant in a brilliantly disparate variety of settings. Coltrane’s playing and sound were in a perpetual state of flux and his 1963 output was no different.
If anyone out there has information about the history of this song I would love to hear it. I also would like to hear your impressions of Coltrane’s version.