photo & text by nacrowe
there is this seemingly effortless fluid LYRICISM to JOHN COLTRANE's sound up until he shot into space in the late 1960s and explored the outer reaches of his saxophone. i am well aware that his dynamic playing style was a testament to his preternatural abilities of IMPROVISATION, COLLABORATION and ACTIVE LISTENING. to merely state that he was a genius is to cut such efforts short, as was the case with the beat writers, who when confronted with BEBOP hailed such gifted musicians as COLTRANE, DIZZY GILLESPIE and CHARLIE PARKER with praise of being physically gifted which in itself was a tad bit racist. it denied them their own agency in the process.
regardless, COLTRANE's take on popular standards on MY FAVORITE THINGS (ATLANTIC, 1961) such as "SUMMERTIME," "EVERY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE" and the title track do have an a lilting and lifting feeling within the listener. his playing is highly lyrical as if his saxophone is intimately singing to you in hushed somber tones from across the room. its RELAXING and an absolutely INTOXICATING experience. i believe that it is this LULLING effect which allows him to glide through such complicated arpeggiated measures with little aplomb, slight diversions on a smooth journey through our inner consciousness. i personally enjoy it when i hear a musician make artistically merited yet highly technical musical decisions without such getting any special fanfare in terms of the composition. these are not guitar solos that are setup to be admired and obsessed over, COLTRANE's saxophone runs are more part of an overall experience or aesthetic that just washes over and subsumes you. once you notice something its on to the next thing.
like a lot of people, i thoroughly enjoy this period of COLTRANE's discography and highly recommend investigating not only MY FAVORITE THINGS, but also GIANT STEPS (ATLANTIC, 1960) and of course BLUE TRAIN (BLUE NOTE, 1958). not to mention his other collaborations with the likes of MILES DAVIS and MILT JACKSON during this period. you will not regret it.