Sunday, 6 June 2010


Among the names of jazz luminaries few shine brighter than Duke Ellington and John Coltrane.
If you were to get most people to list their ten most important jazz figures ever, it's more than likely that these two names will always appear near the top of the list.
Jazz modernists who may shy away from traditional sounds would not deny the influence and impact of Ellington, while likewise those who can't attune themselves to Coltranes later avant garde work would still recognise the defining change it brought about to jazz.
So... you'd think that a collaboration between these two would produce some of the best jazz you've ever witnessed.....
Sad to say it doesn't. The album "Duke Ellington & John Coltrane" recorded in 1962 is a bit of a strange confection. 7 tracks (5 Ellington, 1 Strayhorn and 1 Coltrane composition) of swinging ballads. Expertly arrange and expertly executed. But that's about as much as you can say. There just isn't the "spark" that you would have expected between these two.
I don't know if they didn't hit it off, or if one (or both) were having bad days when it was recorded. But it just doesn't gel.
To my mind, if anyone, it's Ellington who at least appears to make the attempt to move away from his usual territory and edges towards the modern, whereas Coltrane, here, just plays it straight. To be fair to Coltrane he was in a sort of "fallow" period in '62 and hadn't really got the sound yet that would define his later work yet (A Love Supreme - 1965). Perhaps he was simply in awe of Ellington. I don't know.
Good album. Hell, a "great" album by most standards, but it could have been amazing.

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