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John Coltrane: One Down, One Up: Live At The Half Note

John Coltrane: One Down, One Up: Live At The Half Note

Release Date:2005

By Dennis Rozanski | Posted 12/21/2005

By 1965, convention be damned. Field guides still technically identified it as “jazz,” but at that point John Coltrane was shredding the air with a sound far, far beyond any genre criteria. Especially in these final stages—months away from his classic quartet’s implosion and two years before his own untimely death—he didn’t merely blow the saxophone. Trane fused a blowtorch to his mouth, furiously and copiously stacking up notes on the fly, as if desperately trying to crack some code in one massive spew. And his savage backers—pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drum monster Elvin Jones—offered no safe shelter.

One Down, One Up is a hellacious testimonial, able to house only four epics on two discs. Trane’s tenor solo blistered across the title track is infamous, powering a horn/drum duel so fierce as to almost break the bass pedal midmelee. No overt melody line you could hum, nor a steady beat to which you could snap a finger. On the other hand, the quartet’s reconstructions of “My Favorite Things” and “Afro Blue” offer something more recognizable. They surface, however, between blizzard squalls of Tyner’s jagged shards, Garrison’s thrust, and Jones just bashing and crashing away until Coltrane’s screaming soprano is baited out at the peak of climax. These performances are literally the stuff of legend, having originally sent freethinking blowers to their scratch pads.

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