A day after this performance, DownBeat’s John Tynan wrote: “At Hollywood’s Renaissance Club recently, I listened to a horrifying demonstration of what appears to be a growing anti-jazz trend exemplified by these foremost proponents [Coltrane and Dolphy] of what is termed avant-garde music. I heard a good rhythm section… go to waste behind the nihilistic exercises of the two horns.… Coltrane and Dolphy seem intent on deliberately destroying [swing].… They seem bent on pursuing an anarchistic course in their music that can but be termed anti-jazz.”
Time has proven Tynan 100% right, of course — this stuff sucks! Just kidding … the team-up of Coltrane and Dolphy is one the high water marks of modern music as we know it. The four-disc Village Vanguard collection offers one of the most incredible listening experiences you’ll find anywhere in any genre, a universe of scarily beautiful sound.
Amazingly, we’re going to get more Coltrane / Dolphy (and Jones and Tyner and Workman) in about a month. The previously unreleased Evenings at the Village Gate: John Coltrane with Eric Dolphy features 80 minutes of music recorded a couple months prior to the Village Vanguard stand. You can check out a sample over on NPR now and although the recording was made with a single mic (by future Dylan engineer Richard Alderson), it sounds well-nigh miraculous.
While we wait for the rest, let’s enjoy this wondrous 40+ minutes of the Coltrane Quintet in Finland. Compared to the Village Vanguard tapes from just a few weeks before, the performance is relatively smooth — nothing too outward bound like “India” or “Chasin’ Another Trane.” Coltrane had already tested the European audience’s stamina on his final tour with Miles in 1960, so maybe he was hedging his bets slightly. But that’s not meant as a criticism. This is spectacular music from start to finish. And if the quintet is deliberately destroying swing on the long and luminous “My Favorite Things” here … well, then destroy away, dudes! Dolphy’s incredible flute solo here is a total showstopper.
“At home [in California] I used to play, and the birds always used to whistle with me,” Dolphy said. “I would stop what I was working on and play with the birds … Birds have notes in between our notes—you try to imitate something they do and, like, maybe it’s between F and F-sharp, and you’ll have to go up or come down on the pitch. It’s really something! And so, when you get playing, this comes. You try to do some things on it. Indian music has something of the same quality— different scales and quarter tones. I don’t know how you label it, but it’s pretty.” | t wilcox / photo: herb snitzer