John Coltrane Coltrane ‘58: The Prestige Recordings
John Coltrane was still finding employment primarily as a sideman when he signed with Prestige Records; he’d already served with the likes of Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, and his emergence as a significant leader was still a couple of years away. Still, beginning in 1958, Coltrane took the reins at several sessions, and his reputation was already solid enough that he could surround himself with some of the top-shelf jazz musicians of the day. The 37 tracks that fill these five CDs (or eight LPs) feature such familiar players as trumpeter Donald Byrd, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb, and though the output is admittedly not the equal of what would soon come from Trane, there is no denying that the ideas were flowing furiously. Although there are some early original compositions here (“Black Pearls,” “Goldsboro Express”), the vast majority of the tunes performed at these sessions find Trane and his accompanists interpreting standards, blues and other outside compositions. Some include drop-ins from other wellknown musicians—trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, guitarist Kenny Burrell— but even at this nascent stage of his career, Coltrane is the dominant figure. Following Byrd’s manic solo in Oscar Hammerstein’s “Lover Come Back to Me,” Coltrane manages to maintain his grace and fluidity, even while blasting through his notes, and his tenderness on “Stardust” doesn’t mask his bold approach. Still, those few originals serve notice that he is a new voice worth watching: “By the Numbers” is a traditional blues chestnut on the surface, but when that tenor saxophone makes its stand, all bets are off.