Stream Online the Complete “Lost” John Coltrane Album, Both Directions at Once

Expec­ta­tions ran high when it was announced last month that a lost (!) John Coltrane album, Both Direc­tions at Once, had been dis­cov­ered by the fam­i­ly of his ex-wife Naima, and would final­ly be released for fans to hear. Would it prove wor­thy of Son­ny Rollin’s com­par­i­son to “find­ing a new room in the Great Pyra­mid”? Such dis­cov­er­ies can lead to dead ends and dis­ap­point­ments as often as to rev­e­la­tions. In this case, the album yields nei­ther, which is not to say it isn’t, as Chris Mor­ris writes at Vari­ety, “a god­send.”

The album lives up to its title, cho­sen by Coltrane’s son Ravi, as a tran­si­tion­al doc­u­ment, stun­ning, but not par­tic­u­lar­ly sur­pris­ing. Hear all 7 cuts on the sin­gle-disc ver­sion of the release on this page, with typ­i­cal­ly excel­lent play­ing by Coltrane’s clas­sic quar­tet (bassist Jim­my Gar­ri­son, drum­mer Elvin Jones, and pianist McCoy Tyn­er) and an ear­ly take on “one of the warhors­es of the Coltrane catalog”—“Impressions”—including three addi­tion­al takes on the Deluxe Ver­sion, which you can stream on Spo­ti­fy here or pur­chase here. (Tyn­er sits out the take on the sin­gle disc ver­sion, turn­ing it into a “hard-edged, per­co­lat­ing show­case for Coltrane in trio for­mat.”)

Sev­er­al crit­ics have sug­gest­ed that this “lost album” isn’t a prop­er album at all, but rather, as Ravi Coltrane put it, “a kick­ing-the-tires kind of ses­sion,” and per­haps that’s so. Nonethe­less, it works as “a por­trait of an artist and a band on the brink of a his­toric explo­sion,” Mor­ris writes.

“The brac­ing, prob­ing, self-ques­tion­ing and keen­ly played music on this col­lec­tion is the miss­ing link between the pro­vi­sion­al work heard on 1962’s ‘Coltrane’ and the quartet’s epochal stu­dio albums – ‘Cres­cent,’ the devout ‘A Love Supreme’ and (with addi­tion­al per­son­nel) the free jazz mag­num opus ‘Ascen­sion.’”

Oth­ers echo this assess­ment. Drowned in Sound’s Joe Gog­gins calls Both Direc­tions at Once “hard evi­dence that he was still look­ing for new sounds with­in old struc­tures,” and The New Yorker’s Richard Brody describes the ses­sion as “some­thing of a stock­tak­ing” that bal­ances the exper­i­ments of the band’s live sets with the reigned-in dis­ci­pline of its ear­ly 60s stu­dio work. Brody also laments that “lit­tle on the album match­es the music that Coltrane was mak­ing at the time in con­cert.” Win­ston Cook-Wil­son at Spin describes the music as “some­times at war with itself…. The con­trasts of their cat­a­logue are pushed against each oth­er, some­times with­in the same song.”

All of this inter­nal ten­sion makes for an excit­ing lis­ten, espe­cial­ly in its two new orig­i­nals, known only as “Unti­tled Orig­i­nal 11383” and “Unti­tled Orig­i­nal 11386,” and the 11-minute “Slow Blues,” which Mor­ris apt­ly describes as “a geared-down, ency­clo­pe­dic work­out on blues changes” that builds, after its tem­po dou­bles, to a “full-cry con­clu­sion.”

In all, the new lost album shows Coltrane just about to break new ground, but not quite yet, which per­haps makes it a new­ly essen­tial doc­u­ment for the Coltrane com­pletist. For most lovers of the great inno­va­tor, it’s just a damn fine “new” Coltrane record, both dar­ing and acces­si­ble at once.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

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

The His­to­ry of Spir­i­tu­al Jazz: Hear a Tran­scen­dent 12-Hour Mix Fea­tur­ing John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Her­bie Han­cock & More

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

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  • Fred says:

    Ravi Coltrane’s com­ment about not being a “real album” reminds me of what was said about Jimi Hen­drix albums released after his death. I still like “Cry of Love” but each suc­ces­sive album became more redun­dent.

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