These three European television programs from the 1960s capture the evolution of John Coltrane’s journey from sideman to bandleader.
In the first set, recorded on March 28, 1960 in Dusseldorf, Germany, Coltrane was unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight when Miles Davis was unable play that day. It’s basically a performance of the Miles Davis Quintet without Davis. The lineup includes Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums.
The film was made during a European tour billed as “Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic Presents Jazz Winners of 1960.” Two of the other “Jazz Winners” were Stan Getz and Oscar Peterson, both of whom join Coltrane and the band near the end of the Dusseldorf set. Getz plays on the last few songs. It’s a historic session–the only known recording of the two great saxophone players performing together. At the beginning of the final song, Thelonious Monk’s “Hackensack,” Peterson taps Kelly on the shoulder and takes over on the piano. Here’s the set list:
- On Green Dolphin Street
- The Theme
- Autumn leaves
- What’s New
- Autumn in New York
By all accounts, Coltrane was a bit grumpy during the European tour of 1960. He was anxious to leave the Davis quintet and start his own band, but agreed to stay on through the end of the tour as a favor to Davis. In appreciation, Davis bought Coltrane his first soprano saxophone while they were in Europe. The gift would have a significant effect on Coltrane’s music, as revealed in the next half-hour set, recorded on November 24, 1961 at the Südwestfunk television studio in Badan-Baden, Germany. The band includes Coltrane on tenor and soprano saxophones, Eric Dolphy on alto saxophone and flute, McCoy Tyner on Piano, Reggie Workman on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. Here’s the set list:
- My Favorite Things
- Everytime We Say Goodbye
The last set was recorded on August 1, 1965 in Comblain-la-Tour, Belgium, shortly before the European release of Coltrane’s classic album A Love Supreme. The Classic Quartet includes Coltrane on tenor and soprano saxophones, Tyner on piano, Jones on drums and Jimmy Garrison on bass. Here’s the set list:
- My Favorite Things
As in the 1961 set, Coltrane and his combo stretch each song out. “It was about much more than just the length,” writes Ashley Kahn in the liner notes for the Jazz Icons DVD. “It was what the quartet delivered in extended doses: sustained, elevating energy and a marked density of musical ideas, a heightened sense of drama, and a sweat-inducing delivery that seemed to somehow articulate answers to spiritual mysteries.”