John Coltrane – The Last Trane

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  • Coltrane’s wonderful 1966 release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and and outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • A superb album compiled from three mono recording sessions from 1957 and 1958, featuring brilliant accompaniment by Donald Byrd and Red Garland, among others
  • The recording is huge and lively in the long and storied tradition of Rudy Van Gelder’s Coltrane sessions from the fifties
  • The original Blue Trident Prestige mono pressings are clearly superior to anything that came after them, and that is of course what we are offering here

This vintage Prestige pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the Coltrane and the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of Last Trane have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1958 (though the album wasn’t released until 1966)
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

What We’re Listening For on Last Trane

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Rudy Van Gelder in this case — would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

The Players

John Coltrane – tenor saxophone
Donald Byrd – trumpet
Red Garland – piano
Paul Chambers – bass
Earl May – bass
Louis Hayes – drums
Art Taylor – drums

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Lover
Slowtrane

Side Two

By The Numbers
Come Rain Or Come Shine

AMG Review

Despite its title (which was due to the original LP containing the last of Prestige’s John Coltrane material to be released for the first time), this album does not have Coltrane’s final recordings either of his career or for Prestige. These “leftovers” are generally rewarding with an alternate take of “Trane’s Slo Blues” (called “Slotrane”) being joined by three slightly later numbers (“Lover,” “By the Numbers” and “Come Rain or Come Shine”) taken from quintet sessions with trumpeter Donald Byrd, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and either Louis Hayes or Art Taylor on drums. Enjoyable if not essential hard bop from John Coltrane’s productive Prestige period.

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