First Appeared in The Music Box, February 1995, Volume 2, #2
Written by John Metzger
The name John Coltrane is probably familiar to rock fans, but how many of you actually have ventured out and listened to any of his recordings? In addition to his solo works, he has appeared with Miles Davis, Jimmy Smith, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk, and he is a highly regarded tenor saxophonist. Coltrane has influenced quite a few rock musicians as well, including Jerry Garcia and Carlos Santana. In fact, it wasn't unusual for Coltrane's music to be played over the P.A. between sets at a Grateful Dead show. The influence that Coltrane has had on Garcia is monstrous.
Coltrane's 1960 release Giant Steps provides the perfect entree into his canon. Recorded in 1959, this is the first album comprised entirely of Coltrane originals. Seven tunes appear on the album, and the CD contains an additional five alternate takes of those songs.
Much like Garcia's guitar playing, Coltrane jams fast and furious, dancing up and down the scales. He is extremely academic in his performance, at least on Giant Steps, so much so that he even named the album and title track after the musical theory behind Paul Chambers' bass line. (Speaking of bass, check out the delicate bass solo from Chambers on the alternate take of Syeeda's Song Flute. It's simply stunning.)
Don't let the academia scare you, though. You really don't need to know a thing about theory to enjoy Coltrane's playing, and throughout Giant Steps, he pushes far beyond technical proficiency. Giant Steps is really a traditional four-piece jazz band album, consisting of tenor sax, piano, bass, and drums. Most of the effort is up-tempo with the exception of the pretty ballad Naima, which was written for his wife. What makes Giant Steps stand out, however, is the music that emanates from one of the most influential and extraordinary saxophonists of all time.
Giant Steps was reissued with additional bonus material
and it is available from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 1995 The Music Box