DUKE ELLINGTON & JOHN COLTRANE – Duke Ellington & John Coltrane (1963)

Review by: Andreas Georgi
Album assigned by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez

Let’s start by saying this album is great. All-too-often highly touted collaborations fail to meet the expectations. This is not the case here. Coltrane and Ellington are both very deserved in the “master” category, obviously. At the time Coltrane was reaching the peak of his career, which was sadly cut short. At this stage, dating roughly to the “Africa Sessions” & “Crescent” album sessions, Coltrane was still very much on this side of tonality, but he was already pushing the boundaries with extended techniques and freer structures, which would culminate with “A Love Supreme” before his jump into free jazz and atonality.
Ellington’s importance to jazz music can hardly be over-stated. His contribution to the repertoire and to the musical language and depth of the music are enormous. To be sure this album finds Ellington in the later years of his career, long after he made his most crucial contributions. Nevertheless, Ellington was an explorer throughout his career, who repeatedly absorbed new developments into his own style, as is also evidenced on the crucial trio session, “Money Jungle” with Max Roach and Charles Mingus, also from 1962. This album also brings home Ellington’s hugely important contributions as a pianist.
All but one of the tracks are written or co-written by Ellington (or his writing partner Billy Strayhorn), with one Coltrane composition. The album opens with a delicate version of “In a Sentimental Mood”, before switching into a higher gear with the original “Take the Coltrane” and on “Stevie”, where Coltrane fully dives into his own aggressive & progressive style, and Ellington is right there with him. “My Little Brown Book”, a Billy Strayhorn masterpiece, is another highlight of the album, but it’s all great.
Ten points, five stars, thumbs up, whatever you like!
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Author: tomymostalas

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