Up there with the likes of Charles Mingus and Miles Davis, among others, John Coltrane is one of the most important and cherished jazz artists of all time. Practicing the art of the saxophone while simultaneously being a sailor, joining an all-white band then being forced to act as if he is a guest in the band instead of an actual member in an attempt to avoid the consequences that Coltrane and the band may have faced if their supervisors found out, only to eventually become the head of said band… Coltrane’s background is most certainly an interesting one. Once Coltrane was no longer serving his duties as a seaman, he mastered the art of jazz accompanied by fellow jazz icons such as Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. His arduous hours of training would result in the art of jazz perfected with albums such as Blue Train and A Love Supreme, even avant-garde jazz at its finest with The Olatunji Concert. His discography contains a bountiful amount of classic records that have withstood the test of time, and Giant Steps is another album to add to this already stacked pile.
Rather than playing out a story in my mind with its instrumental intricacies and taking me into the world of a crowded town in the 1960s like A Love Supreme did, Giant Steps is more focused on playing groovy and gaiety tunes. It moreso wants to make you dance instead of building a world out of its saxophones unlike some of Coltrane's most beloved albums. With that being said, it also isn’t lacking in the boundary-pushing musical craftsmanship that comes with typical Coltrane classics. The aptly titled “Coltrane Changes” was coined after the daunting chords played in the album’s title track, a progression very few jazz artists can replicate because of how difficult it is to play. As per usual for Coltrane, his intrepid and beguiling saxophones are the focal points of each song with drums and softly-strummed bass backing these saxophone grooves up. The many instruments, each of which containing their own distinct personality, add up to create some of Coltrane’s most fun tunes. It’s an album that only relents on its fun when it slows down a bit and creates songs that are more toned down and contain a lot of empty space compared to the more eventful tunes. These tracks are somewhat boring, despite them having moments of grandeur, and come out to be the worst tracks on the record. However, I can still safely that Giant Steps is primarily a record that doesn’t yield on its capabilities of making the listener dance. In other words, a fun-ass jazz record.
Favorite Tracks: Giant Steps, Cousin Mary, Countdown, Spiral, Mr. P.C.
Worst Track: Naima