A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.
As you may have guessed by now, remastered is a bit of a dirty word around these parts. Most remastered records we play, from The Beatles to John Coltrane to ZZ Top, sound to us like pale imitations of the real thing, whether the real thing is an original or a reissue from back in the day.
But only a fool could fail to appreciate how correct and lively the best copies of this remastered record sound, and we’re no fools here at Better Records. We judge records by one and only one criterion: how they sound. We pay no mind to labels, record thicknesses, playback speeds, mastering speeds or anything else you can read about on audiophile websites.
We’re looking for the best sound. We don’t care where it comes from.
On that basis we awarding side two of this copy the award for The Best Sound on Standard Coltrane. No other pressing of the album could do what this side two was doing. And the good news is that side one was nearly as good, making this the first and best copy to ever hit the site.
So dynamic, present and lively, with a rich sax and clear, solid piano. Great energy.
Even better, with tighter, bigger bass. Let’s give RVG a hand, the tonality on this side is HTF: Hard To Fault. Not many remastered records can make that claim in our experience.
The New OJC Reissues
Feeling the obligation to do at least a minimal amount of due diligence with respect to the new OJC pressings, we purchased a batch and gave them a listen head to head with other pressings we knew to be good. In every case it was no contest, but that’s not to say the new reissues are bad in any way. Better to say they are less good in every way — less present, less clear, less spacious, less dynamic, in short, less real.
At the price, around $20, they are a good value for the average record lover, especially those on a budget. (A number of Heavy Vinyl pressings are no doubt a good value as well, particularly the ones we have reviewed favorably and probably quite a few more. But average is not what we’re on about at Better Records — the name says it all — so it’s unlikely we will ever know comprehensively which ones sound good and which ones don’t.)
Recorded a few years ago, in Coltrane’s final period with the Miles Davis group, this set of four tunes catches the saxophonist in four distinct moods.
“Don’t Take” is a relatively conservative thing, with the leader setting out sweepingly powerful melodic statements in that pressing tone so uniquely his. His few scale-like figures are merely embellishments here.
“I’ll Get By” has Coltrane making more substantive use of scalar figures, though hardly as extensively as he does today. On “Spring,” the saxophonist unhesitatingly leaps into the spiral style—in its earliest form, of course—that identifies him to most listeners now.
“Invitation” finds him trying some of the ideas that he used so effectively with Thelonious Monk in 1957. One of these was the building of contrasting harmonic lines around a single “home” note. It’s a fascinating musical game in the hands of a jazzman as imaginative Coltrane.
Impressive, too, is the booming authority with which Coltrane exlores all four moods. However, he chooses to play, that seems to be the way it has to be.
The Davis rhythm section of the period—the one on this record—was strictly major league and sounded it.
It would be good to hear more of Hardin. His sense of understatement and melodic contour makes for a delightful contrasting voice in this session.
Let’s hope Prestige has more like this one in the vaults.
Richard B. Hadlock
Don’t Take Your Love From Me
I’ll Get By (As Long As I Have You)
Spring Is Here
John Coltrane had yet to move into his modal post-bop phase in 1958 when he recorded a session for Prestige Records on July 11 with trumpeter/flügelhornist Wilbur Harden, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Jimmy Cobb, the results of which were issued in 1962 as Standard Coltrane.
His groundbreaking modal work with Miles Davis on Kind of Blue was still a few months into the future, which makes this set more historical than vital or transitional, although it’s pleasant enough, featuring Coltrane on several standards, including a ten-plus-minute version of “Invitation.”