The Red Garland Quintet With John Coltrane – Dig It! (1962)
You might think because these are outtakes culled from three different sessions, that this would be a waste. You would be an idiot. Red Garland elevates almost all of these tracks into something worth hearing: how he plays with a single note on “Billie’s Bounce” (echoed by Arthur Taylor’s intrusion during his solo and George Joyner afterwards) and how he brings his solo to climax on “Lazy Mae” in a similar fashion (and even ignoring that, his playing on that track is so gorgeously twilight-y); how he inspires the Feelies two decades later on “Crazy Rhythm”, who would name their debut album after it (I’m being facetious, but given how Garland speeds through it, you could actually believe it were true). Only “CTA” is mild, but Art Taylor saves it. Truthfully, I came here for John Coltrane, was surprised to see Donald Byrd on the tracklist and remembered neither once everything was said and done.
John Coltrane & Don Cherry – The Avant-Garde (1966)
Hard album to review. On the one hand, it’s almost all good stuff, from the percolating themes of “The Invisible” (my favourite track from Coleman’s debut) and Thelonious Monk’s “Bemsha Swing” to the bass-lines of Charlie Haden (tracks 1, 3) and Percy Heath (tracks 2, 4, 5) throughout. On the other hand, there’s very little in the way of greatness, though I can imagine myself returning fondly to how John Coltrane begins his solo so calmly on “Cherryco” before proceeding the burn the house down over the next couple of minutes, and Ed Blackwell’s drumming throughout, not just for his solos (most notably the ones that cap off “Cherryco” and “The Blessing,” but also the one in the middle of “Focus on Sanity” where he lets cymbals ring in between extended volleys of drum rolls) but also how his work always keeps you on your toes. A good oxymoron for his drumming would be “unpredictable pavement”. A good oxymoron for the whole album would be “frustratingly pleasant”: the promise of hearing John Coltrane replace Ornette Coleman on Coleman’s quartet sets expectations that the album never reaches, even adjusting for 1960’s Coltrane and Cherry (when it was recorded) instead of 1966’s Coltrane and Cherry (when it was released).