[Review] John Coltrane: Soultrane (1958)

The album that introduced the world to Coltrane’s sheets of sound.

Kronomyth 6.0: Runaway Trane.

Just a few days after recording the first session for Miles Davis’ Milestones, John Coltrane, Red Garland and Paul Chambers (with Art Taylor) returned to the same studio to record Coltrane’s next album, Soultrane. This time, Coltrane’s entrance is immediate and his presence is enormous. Good Bait is a tuneful number from Tadd Dameron and Count Basie that delivers instant gratification and stands as the album’s most hummable track. Coltrane completely overshadows everything until Garland slips in an impossibly cool solo, and you’re reminded that you’re listening to three-fifths of the world’s greatest quintet and arguably its greatest quartet. I Want To Talk About You is a Billy Eckstine ballad featuring Coltrane’s big, beautiful, lyrical passages and a completely different solo from Garland rendered in dream-like clusters of notes.

The second side comes out swinging with You Say You Care (from Gentleman Prefer Blondes), with Coltrane and Garland serving up another great set of solos and Taylor getting into the act with some art-ful playing. Theme For Ernie, written for alto saxophonist Ernie Henry (who died of a heroin overdose at the end of 1957), has some gorgeous melodic shifts that remind me of The Beatles’ “Michelle.” The album ends with another sped-up Irving Berlin song, Russian Lullaby, with some breathtaking soloing from Coltrane. Commentator Ira Gitler famously referred to Trane’s performance on this track as “sheets of sound” because the notes create a continuous stream of music; the music literally explodes from Trane’s tenor in a gush of creative force that somehow, impossibly, is shaped by will at the speed of thought. It reminds me of those Michael Jordan highlight reels when they would slow the video down and you would see Jordan making millisecond adjustments in a way that could only be described as instinct and intelligence perfectly comingled.

Despite the absence of a Coltrane original, Soultrane is every bit as essential as John Coltrane with the Red Garland Trio. Both albums represent some of the greatest tenor saxophone playing ever recorded and serve as a perfect introduction to the genius of the classic Coltrane quartet. The only (slight) knock I have on the record is that Rudy Van Gelder’s recording seems a little off; unthinkable, I know, so maybe it’s just my ears playing tricks.

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Original LP Version

A1. Good Bait (Tadd Dameron/Count Basie) (12:16*)
A2. I Want To Talk About You (Billy Eckstine) (11:10)
B1. You Say You Care (Joe Stein**/Leo Robin) (6:25)
B2. Theme For Ernie (Freddie Lacey) (5:03)
B3. Russian Lullaby (Irving Berlin) (5:42)

*Track times on the 1999 CD remaster are about 10-15 seconds shorter than the 1982 elpee reissue.
** That should be Jule Styne.

The Players

John Coltrane (tenor sax), Paul Chambers (bass), Red Garland (piano), Arthur Taylor (drums). Supervision by Bob Weinstock; recording by Van Gelder.

The Pictures

Design by Esmond Edwards. Liner notes by Ira Gitler.

The Plastic

Released on mono elpee in 1958 in the US (Prestige, PRLP 7142) and the UK (Esquire, 32-089). UK version features different cover artwork.

  1. Re-released on remastered stereo elpee in c.1968 in the US (Prestige, PRST-7531) {blue label w/ logo in circle} with different cover.
  2. Re-packaged with John Coltrane With The Red Garland Trio as John Coltrane on 2-for-1 2LP and cassette in 1972 in the US (Prestige, P5P-24003).
  3. Re-issued on stereo elpee in the early 1970s in the US (Prestige, PRT-7531) [light green label} with different cover.
  4. Re-issued on elpee in 1982 in the US (Original Jazz Classics, OJC-21).
  5. Re-issued on elpee in 1984 in Japan (Prestige, VIJ-201) and Mexico (Gamma, GX01 01377).
  6. Re-released on remastered compact disc on May 21, 1985 in Japan (Prestige, VDJ-1502).
  7. Re-issued on remastered compact disc and cassette in 1987 in the US (Original Jazz Classics, OJCCD/OJC5-21).
  8. Re-issued on 24k gold remastered compact disc in 1993 in the US (DCC, GZS-1046).
  9. Re-released on extended resolution compact disc on May 21, 1998 in Japan (Victor, VICJ-60159).
  10. Re-released on 20-bit K2 remastered compact disc in 1999 in the US (Prestige, PRCD-7142-2).
  11. Re-released on remastered mono compact disc on May 6, 2003 in the US (Mobile Fidelity, UDSACD 2020).
  12. Re-issued on 20-bit K2 remastered compact disc on June 21, 2006 in Japan (Prestige, VICJ-41510).
  13. Re-issued on compact disc on April 11, 2007 in Japan (Prestige, UCCO-9024).
  14. Re-packaged with Kenny Burrell & John Coltrane on 2-for-1 compact disc in 2008 (Essential Jazz Classics).
  15. Re-packaged with Lush Life, Stardust and Kenny Burrell & John Coltrane on 4CD in 2011 (Prestige).
  16. Re-released on 200g vinyl mono elpee in 2014 in the US (Analogue Productions/Prestige, 71423).
  17. Re-released on super high material compact disc on May 25, 2016 in Japan (Prestige, UCCO-40012) and on August 24, 2016 in Japan (Prestige, UCCO-5504).

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