[Review] John Coltrane: Selflessness Featuring My Favorite Things (1969)

Live performances from the 1963 Newport Jazz Festival plus the unreleased studio track, “Selflessness.”

Kronomyth 42.0: Newport Kings.

This is a posthumous release featuring a pair of live tracks from the 1963 Newport Jazz Festival plus an unreleased recording from the Kulu Se Mama sessions, Selflessness. The time between the recordings was only two years, yet they’re light-years removed from each other stylistically. The live recordings are adventurous, of course, but still anchored in a traditional four-piece lineup. “Selflessness,” recorded as an eight-piece, is completely untethered from tradition or convention; it sounds like two different songs superimposed on one another, with persistent hand percussion clapping in one ear against the chaos of creation itself.

What strikes me when listening to the live recordings is how time seems to slow down for John Coltrane. He finds nuances in the music that you didn’t know existed, as though everyone were moving at half-speed except him, freeing his tenor saxophone to leap and dart between the notes. There are the typical squalls of sound from the saxophone (at times, the man sounds like a goose caught in a twister), which serve to make the twisting, melodic passages more beautiful. And, as often happens with Coltrane, the tenor saxophone discovers a completely new voice that you didn’t know the instrument could produce: an unearthly flutter at the end of My Favorite Things, a honk that morphs into mechanical distortion on “Selflessness.”

Both recordings feature the classic quartet (minus Elvin Jones) with appearances from Roy Haynes, Frank Butler and Pharoah Sanders. McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Garrison shine on “My Favorite Things,” but the spotlight is never far from Coltrane; his solo at the end of I Want to Talk About You, which might have been merely an exclamation point, instead becomes an entirely new conversation with the audience. The attraction of this disc is the startling “Selflessness” and the unstartling supremacy of the classic quartet (with Haynes) onstage. The live recording leaves something to be desired, but the performance is typically top notch. Not the first Coltrane disc you need to hear, obviously, but a better bet to please than some of those early Prestige recordings.

Original elpee version

A1. My Favorite Things* (Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein) (17:32)
B1. I Want to Talk About You* (Billy Eckstine) (8:19)
B2. Selflessness (John Coltrane) (14:48)

* Recorded live at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 7, 1963

The Players

John Coltrane (tenor saxophone), Frank Butler (drums and percussion on track 3), Donald Garrett (bass clarinet and bass on track 3), Jimmy Garrison (bass), Roy Haynes (drums on tracks 1 & 2), Elvin Jones (drums on track 3), Juno Lewis (percussion on track 3), Pharoah Sanders (tenor saxophone on track 3), McCoy Tyner (piano). Produced by Bob Thiele and John Coltrane.

Did You Know?

  • Coltrane was the final performer at the Newport Jazz Festival; the group performed, in order, “I Want To Talk About You,” “My Favorite Things” and “Impressions.” (source: The John Coltrane Reference).
  • Haynes was never a formal member of the quartet, although he did sit in for Elvin Jones for some dates in the summer of 1963.

The Plastic

Live material (*) recorded on July 7, 1963 and studio material recorded on October 14, 1965, released on elpee in October 1969 in the US (ABC/Impulse!, AS-9161), the UK (Impulse!, SIPL 522) and France (ABC/Impulse!, A-9161, mono version).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1974-79 in the US (ABC/Impulse!, AS-9161) {green/blue label}.
  2. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (ABC/Impulse!, YP-8561-A1).
  3. Re-issued on elpee in 1981 in the US (MCA/Impulse!, MCA 29026).
  4. Re-released on compact disc on July 12, 2004 in Japan (Universal, UCCU-5221).
  5. Re-issued on compact disc on September 6, 2011 in the US (Impulse!/Verve, B0015830-02).

1 thought on “[Review] John Coltrane: Selflessness Featuring My Favorite Things (1969)

  1. Detail: The album sleeve carries a recurrent misprint. Donald Garrett by his own admission never played a bass-clarinet: his instruments were (double-)bass and standard B-flat-soprano clarinet.

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