What's The First John Coltrane Album You Fell In Love With?

If you like jazz, we're assuming you have one. We want to know what it is. Hit us up in the comments.

Live At Birdland
Verve Music Group/Universal

For me, it was Live At Birdland. I had all the common starter albums: Blue Train, Giant Steps, My Favorite Things, A Love Supreme. I liked them all a lot, in their different ways. Blue Train has those nifty compositions and those amazing blues rundowns. Giant Steps has those trademark "I am way better than you at saxophone" solos on "Countdown" and "Giant Steps," but also the richly beautiful "Naima." My Favorite Things' title track is all unsettling and ruminative. And A Love Supreme is its own universe, a fortress, an idea greater than we are — it's deep.

I was sold by the time I got to Live At Birdland. But this was the record which let me fully see John Coltrane as an actual human being creating human music, and not a detached, mythic freak of nature from canonical history.

It had to do somewhat with the live component; three of the songs were actually put to tape in concert at the club Birdland, including the tour de force cadenza on "I Want To Talk About You." These guys weren't a studio phenomenon; they did it night after night for years on end. It also has to do with the band: This is the work of Coltrane's "classic quartet" at full stride (McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones), and it reminds you what it means to have a working unit which knows the language it has created for itself. (The studio version of "My Favorite Things" and this take on "Afro Blue" both feature soprano sax in a waltz feel, but much more how rousingly alive is this group? I mean, Elvin on that, yeesh.)

And then there's "Alabama," one of the studio creations. It's an emotive response to the racist Birmingham terror attack of September 1963, which killed four girls. For me, it was a wake-up call. John Coltrane wasn't an artist stuck in an isolated sphere; he was living and breathing in the real world, dealing with all the things a black man in 1963 might have. The way he turned a sentiment into mournful, sweeping music — it made me tweak, ever so slightly, my whole conception of how and why art was made.

YouTube

Anyway, as we mark the event of John Coltrane's birthday anniversary, we want to know which Coltrane album you really, deeply connected with first. Let us know?


Fellow blogger Mike Katzif left us this:

If I had to guess based on my years of studying and listening to jazz, I'd say most people's first John Coltrane record was either Blue Train, Giant Steps or My Favorite Things. These albums are the "must haves" for your shelf; those records may have even served as your bridge into jazz in the first place — akin to Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue — before you plunged deeper down.

Coltrane's Sound
Atlantic/Warner Music Group

Strangely enough, I'm pretty sure I was not one of these people. I say "pretty sure" because once I bought my first Coltrane album, it didn't take too long before I blinked and owned ten more. But as I recall, the very first John Coltrane album I bought was Traneing In, an early record featuring Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Art Taylor. It's a lesser-known effort from 1957, released two years before Giant Steps blew everyone away. And the playing, while good, is bluesier, but definitely more plaintive and straight-ahead compared to the "sheets of sound" Coltrane to come.

I don't remember why I purchased Traneing In and not one of the more widely-recognized masterpieces. But something must have jumped out at me when visiting Streetside Records in Kansas City, Mo. back in high school. It was enough to bring me back. If I recall correctly, I went back to the record store the within the next few days and picked up Coltrane's Sound. That one remains one of my all-time favorite jazz records thanks to its blustery opening track "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes," and McCoy Tyner's phenomenal pedal-point piano comping. After I heard that, it was all over; I was hooked.

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