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Lush Life by John Coltrane

There are those who would call Trane the most important and influential player to ever pick up a saxophone. Long before his fascination with the soprano and his harmonic evolution, he was one of the finest balladeers on the scene. This 1958 entry on Prestige may be his finest hour in that respect. Joined by bassists Paul Chambers and Earl May, drummers Louis Hayes, Albert Heath and Art Taylor and, on the title cut, by the great Red Garland and Donald Byrd, this recording crackles with Coltrane’s inventive improvisations.

The trio work with May and Taylor dominates the program, being the combo of record, as it were, for three fifths of the disc. Trane is lavishly articulate on the opening "Like Someone in Love," easily one of the finest ballads he recorded. It has that sense of walking around a corner smack into a private and intimate conversation. The breaths are quiet, the mood pensive. By contrast, the take on Cole Porter’s "I Love You," with a wonderfully executed tempo set by Taylor’s mallets on toms, then cymbals and then snare in tandem with a strong bass line, has a mid-tempo run that remains balladic in tone if not execution. "Trane’s Slo Blues" is similarly played, with more stretching room for May and Taylor.

On "Lush Life," the penultimate Coltrane ballad, he is joined by Paul Chambers (both arco and pizzicato), the playful and elegant pianist Red Garland and a young Donald Byrd. It’s a breathtaking performance. Following a long intro by Coltrane, Garland takes a generous solo and Byrd comes in with a superbly articulate solo, recalling neither Miles Davis, Fats Navarro nor any other of his contemporaries. He was blazing his own stylistic path even 45 years ago. The closing version of "I Hear A Rhapsody," with Albert "Tootie" Heath replacing Hayes, is a mid tempo exploration of the melody. Again, one of the period tunes that sets Coltrane apart from most other players of the time, it is brashly performed by the tenor giant with typically superb accompaniment. This was John Coltrane at his best. That this is remastered using 20-bit A/D converter with digital K2 interface is icing on one of the most perfect cakes in jazz history.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: John Coltrane
  • CD Title: Lush Life
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Reissue Original Release: 1958
  • Record Label: Prestige
  • Rating: Five Stars
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