Hear the First Track From John Coltrane’s Lost Album: The Newly-Discovered 1963 Collection Will Get Officially Released Later This Month

Saint­hood and incal­cu­la­ble influ­ence aside, John Coltrane didn’t always break new ground in the stu­dio. “If you heard the John Coltrane Quar­tet live in the ear­ly-to-mid 1960s,” writes Gio­van­ni Rus­sonel­lo at The New York Times—refer­ring to the clas­sic line­up of bassist Jim­my Gar­ri­son, drum­mer Elvin Jones, and pianist McCoy Tyner—you heard “a ground-shak­ing band, an almost phys­i­cal being, bear­ing a promise that seemed to reach far beyond music.”

Pri­or to 1965’s super­nat­ur­al A Love Supreme, how­ev­er, few of the eight albums the clas­sic quar­tet record­ed for Impulse! Records cap­tured “the band’s live eth­ic.” The “fun­ny prob­lem” Coltrane had was his com­mer­cial via­bil­i­ty, which made the label eschew record­ing the quartet’s con­sid­er­ably exper­i­men­tal ten­den­cies in favor of “con­cept-dri­ven and con­sumer-friend­ly projects.” Now, Rus­sonel­lo writes, “that sto­ry needs a major foot­note.” A lost Coltrane album from 1963 has emerged, dis­cov­ered by the fam­i­ly of his first wife, Naima.

Coltrane his­to­ry may be rewrit­ten on June 29th when the album, Both Direc­tions at Once, gets its release. We have a glimpse at what fans have been miss­ing for the past 55 years in the soar­ing first track, “Unti­tled Orig­i­nal 11383,” above, a “brisk minor blues.” The album’s remain­ing trea­sures may jus­ti­fy Son­ny Rollin’s com­par­i­son of this dis­cov­ery to “find­ing a new room in the Great Pyra­mid.” In addi­tion to two pre­vi­ous­ly unheard orig­i­nal com­po­si­tions, the album fea­tures some very intrigu­ing record­ings.

The final track, a stu­dio ver­sion of “One Up, One Down,” was “pre­vi­ous­ly heard only on a boot­leg record­ing made at the Bird­land jazz club,” notes Fact Mag­a­zine. “One of Coltrane’s most famous com­po­si­tions, ‘Impres­sions,’ is fea­tured in a trio with­out piano,” and the album also con­tains the first record­ing of “Nature Boy,” which lat­er appeared on The John Coltrane Quar­tet Plays. (See Fact Mag for a full track­list­ing of the stan­dard and two-CD deluxe edi­tions of the album.) This col­lec­tion comes very close “to the breadth of what Coltrane and his asso­ciates were deliv­er­ing onstage,” claims Rus­sonel­lo.

It may also rep­re­sent a pre­scient­ly tran­si­tion­al doc­u­ment, as its title sug­gests. As Coltrane’s son Ravi puts it, “you do get a sense of John with one foot in the past and one foot head­ed toward his future.” After the album’s 1963 record­ing at the Rudy Van Gelder Stu­dio in New Jer­sey, the mas­ter tapes some­how went miss­ing, but Coltrane had tak­en home the ref­er­ence tape that only recent­ly sur­faced. Both Direc­tions at Once fills in a gap between the “mar­velous” albums Coltrane and Cres­cent, show­ing off the band’s dynamism in the peri­od between “spring 1962 to spring 1964” and let­ting them cut loose while stay­ing with­in famil­iar har­mon­ic forms.

Coltrane’s avant-garde bril­liance may have changed the course of mod­ern music, but some of his most for­ward-think­ing exper­i­ments can be dif­fi­cult lis­ten­ing for those unini­ti­at­ed in the rites of modal free jazz. Accord­ing to pianist and schol­ar Lewis Porter, com­ment­ing on an advance copy of Both Direc­tions at Once, the redis­cov­ered album, con­tains “a lot of that musi­cal meat” that Coltrane’s quar­tet deliv­ered to live audi­ences in the ear­ly-to-mid-six­ties, “but in a con­text that will be more acces­si­ble to a lot of lis­ten­ers.”

Maybe more con­ser­v­a­tive lis­ten­ers, how­ev­er, can find in the lost album a key that unlocks the incred­i­ble mys­ter­ies of lat­er record­ings like Ascen­sion, Med­i­ta­tions, and the wild, posthu­mous­ly-released Inter­stel­lar Space.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Stream the “Com­plete” John Coltrane Playlist: A 94-Hour Jour­ney Through 700+ Trans­for­ma­tive Tracks

John Coltrane Draws a Mys­te­ri­ous Dia­gram Illus­trat­ing the Math­e­mat­i­cal & Mys­ti­cal Qual­i­ties of Music

John Coltrane’s Hand­writ­ten Out­line for His Mas­ter­piece A Love Supreme (1964)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • Jon says:

    Youtube frame say “the uploader has not made this video avail­able in your coun­try” (Puer­to Rico). No link avail­able to any sound­track or a sound­track play­er on your site either? Wow! Great!

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