The album ASCENSION played a profoundly important role in John Coltrane's final period. Recorded in June 1965, almost exactly two years before his death, this session marks Coltrane's final stepping off point into free jazz. The album also marks a division for Coltrane's fans, as there are some that applaud his final escape from jazz tradition while others simply couldn't follow him into the great unknown.
What's the music like? Sound, sound, sound, a vast enveloping texture of brass. Look out for Sanders' solo - it's unlike anything you've ever heard (unless you've been deep in the jungle). It might be useful to follow the order of the soloists: Coltrane (tenor sax), Dewey Johnson (trumpet), Pharoah Sanders (tenor sax), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Archie Shepp (tenor sax), John Tchicai (alto sax), Marion Brown (alto sax).
And what's the experience like? Played loud, it'll do something for you that might approximate what it was like for the musicians. In the words of Marion Brown, "wildly exciting." ~ Amazon
Ascension is the single recording that placed John Coltrane firmly into the avant-garde.
John Coltrane returns to the Village Vanguard – but his sound here is a lot more far-reaching than a few years before! The album's a great counterpart to the first Vanguard session – as it takes all of the bold, soaring energy of that date, and balances it with the newly introspective sound of the later Coltrane years – plus some of the freedoms learned from the Love Supreme era. The group here showcases the new territory explored by Coltrane – with Trane himself on tenor, soprano, and a bit of bass clarinet (echoing earlier Dolphy), plus Pharoah Sanders on additional tenor, Alice Coltrane on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Rasheid Ali on drums. The album only features 2 long tracks – an incredibly soulful version of "Naima", and a very firey version of "My Favorite Things", but one that begins with a haunting bass solo by Garrison!
This CD reissues what was arguably the finest of the John Coltrane-Pharoah Sanders collaborations. On five diverse but almost consistently intense movements ("The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost," "Compassion," "Love," "Consequences," and "Serenity"), the two tenor saxophonists, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and both Elvin Jones and Rashied Ali on drums create some powerful, dense, and emotional music. Unlike some of the live jams of 1966, the passionate performances never ramble on too long and the screams and screeches fit logically into the spiritual themes. This would be the last recording of Coltrane with Tyner and Jones.
This single-disc Concert in Japan by John Coltrane's 1966 quintet is a reissue of the original double LP that was released as IMR 9036C in 1973. Its three selections include two long instrumental pieces and a spoken introduction of the musicians in Japanese. These performances are compiled from two Tokyo dates. This set is not to be confused with the four-disc document that includes both Tokyo concerts in their entirety. The band here performs a 25-minute "Peace on Earth," a ballad that Coltrane wrote especially for the tour, to express his empathy and sympathy for the nuclear destruction Japan experienced during WWII. The tune moves outside, but stays well within the realm of spiritual boundary-pushing that the band was easily capable of.
Recorded at several sessions in the two years prior to his death but not issued until 1972, Infinity was the subject of much controversy among Coltrane aficionados when it finally appeared. The horror on the part of Coltrane purists was directed to the posthumous string arrangements written by Alice Coltrane, his widow, which were grafted onto the performances. But however much the strings softened or unnecessarily augmented the music, it must be said that Alice Coltrane really didn't do such a bad job and the ultimate result is an unusual and oddly attractive work.