Blue Train (Expanded Edition)
Beginning with a phrase that’s among the most famous in modern jazz, Blue Train, which John Coltrane called his favorite recording of his own music, is an unqualified hard bop masterpiece. Recorded in September 1957, this is Coltrane’s first major album as a bandleader (and his only one as a leader for Blue Note), and he selected some of the best young jazzmen of the era to join him: fellow Miles Davis band alumni Paul Chambers (bass) and Philly Joe Jones (drums) along with Lee Morgan (trumpet), Curtis Fuller (trombone), and Kenny Drew (piano). Featuring four Coltrane compositions plus the Johnny Mercer ballad “I’m Old Fashioned,” the music is thrilling, passionate, and melodic from start to finish. There’s exceptional playing by both Morgan and Fuller: Marvel at how Fuller’s nimble solo on “Locomotion” leads into the flurry of notes that begins Morgan’s own solo, one of the highlights of the album. Coltrane’s solos are muscular and focused, and while the notes often come fast and furious, nothing is wasted here. He’s stretching the limits of the blues form without abandoning its basic structure (as he would later). It’s particularly fascinating to hear the roots of the ideas that Coltrane would explore more fully on his 1959 landmark recording Giant Steps. Powerful and searching yet accessible, this timeless album is a must for jazz aficionados and neophytes alike.