John Coltrane – Coltrane Plays the Blues – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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More Coltrane Plays the Blues

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

ONE OF THE VERY BEST COPIES WE’VE EVER HEARD of this phenomenal album! This is PURE GOLD for the jazz-loving audiophile. I can count the number of jazz records we’ve played this year in a league with this one both sonically and musically on one hand. Both sides here are AMAZINGLY GOOD — exceptionally rich and full-bodied with superb transparency. Coltrane’s sax sounds OUT OF THIS WORLD with the lots of that airy, breathy quaility that we just love here. The immediacy is OFF THE CHARTS!

We finally found enough clean copies of this album to do a proper shootout, and this Atlantic ’70s era copy blew us away with TWO SUPERB SIDES. The only time we’ve heard better sound for this album was on a flukish original — nearly every early pressing suffers badly from tubby bass, grain and smearing, so this copy should beat the pants off of most of ’em. Most of these later pressings are pretty bad too; it takes a LOT of copies to find one that’s nearly as good as this one. That’s why it has been two full years since you’ve seen a Hot Stamper copy hit the site!

The overall sound is open and spacious with lots of ambience and room around the instruments. The piano sounds Right On The Money with lots of weight, allowing you to really appreciate the percussive qualities of the instrument. We heard far more dynamics on this copy than elsewhere, which really conveys a sense of the group’s emotional performance. The bass is punchy and well-defined, the saxes have clear leading edge transients, and the drums sound just right. Coltrane fans are going to flip out over this one — guaranteed.

The very best originals might be just a bit better, but you’d have to pick up a ton of them to find a great one and that would set you back a whole lotta dough. We’ve played a ton of early pressings and found exactly one killer copy to date.

The typical Red and Green label pressing of this album lacks a measure of life and energy, not to mention some extension on the top end. The older Green and Blue label copies tend to be a bit smeared and lack some of the body of the later reissues. The reason this copy has such transparency and such an extended top end compared to other copies is obviously due, to some degree, to better cutting equipment.

I’ve NEVER heard a better recorded John Coltrane album in my life! Not only that, but the music is every bit as good as the sound. (It received 4 1/2 stars in the All Music Guide.) This is one of our favorite jazz albums at Better Records. Not only is Coltrane really playing his heart out, but the band is every bit as amazing, with very strong contributions from McCoy Tyner on piano, Elvin Jones on drums, and Steve Davis on bass.

This record will DESTROY any doubts you may have about Coltrane’s status as a top jazz artist! You certainly don’t need to be a fan of Coltrane’s more improvisational music to appreciate this album.

AMG Review

Coltrane’s sessions for Atlantic in late October 1960 were prolific, yielding the material for My Favorite Things, Coltrane Plays the Blues, and Coltrane’s Sound. My Favorite Things was destined to be the most remembered and influential of these, and while Coltrane Plays the Blues is not as renowned or daring in material, it is still a powerful session. As for the phrase ‘plays the blues’ in the title, that’s not so much an indicator that the tunes are conventional blues (which they aren’t). It’s more indicative of a bluesy sensibility, whether he is playing muscular saxophone or, on Blues to Bechet and Mr. Syms, the more unusual-sounding (at the time) soprano sax. Elvin Jones, who hadn’t been in Coltrane’s band long, really busts out on the quicker numbers, such as Blues to You and Mr. Day.” — AMG