John Coltrane - Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album
Jul 3, 2018
55 years ago on March 6th, 1963, 36-year-old American jazz composer and saxophonist John Coltrane entered his favorite vaulted, wood-and-masonry-block recording studio at 445 Sylvan Avenue, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey for a five-hour long recording session with engineer Rudy Van Gelder. Session producer Bob Thiele had originally scheduled Coltrane (tenor/soprano saxophone) and his quartet McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass) and Elvin Jones (drums) from 2:00pm in the afternoon until 7:00pm at night. That same evening, they were booked to play the last night of a two-week residency at Birdland on 1678 Broadway, just north of West 52nd Street in Manhattan. Having shared the previous week’s bill with Thelonius Monk, Coltrane was closing out the final week of the engagement with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Travel time from Van Gelder’s New Jersey recording studio to the Manhattan jazz club was thought to be anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour depending on traffic so it was decided to bump the five-hour recording session back from 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon to an earlier 1pm timeslot in order for the group to get to their New York gig on time. In the two weeks prior, with the recording date quickly approaching, Coltrane and his quartet used the time afforded them by the extended engagement at Birdland to explore a myriad of infinite possible directions for the new material they were scheduled to record March 6th. The day after the recording session that ultimately yielded Both Directions At Once Coltrane returned to Van Gelder’s New Jersey recording studio to record his next album with vocalist Johnny Hartman. At the time Coltrane was on top of his game, cresting a wave of popularity at the height of his creative powers. He had been signed to Impulse Records just two years earlier following the breakthrough success of his top selling 1961 Atlantic Records My Favorite Things album. Earlier in 1963 Coltrane had released a collaboration with the legendary Duke Ellington quickly followed by an album of ballads. It was at this juncture of his career in the glow of these three classic Impulse albums that Coltrane recorded what has become known as Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album, the title referring to a conversation Coltrane had once had about music with fellow sax player Wayne Shorter, talking about “starting a sentence in the middle, and then going to the beginning and the end of it at the same time…both directions at once.” The reason why the historic recording session that resulted in Both Directions At Once was not released as a proper album at the time will most likely never be known. What is unmistakable and not open to debate is the fact that, unbelievably, 51 years after John Coltrane’s tragic and untimely death at the age of 40, an album of NEW MUSIC by this genius giant of jazz is fresh out and on the streets, what Sonny Rollins described as “like finding a new room in the great pyramid”. Miraculous! An absolute joy! Cause for celebration, and Lord knows, we need that now. Rating: 9.9/10 Star Rating: 5/5 2018 Song Of The Day Club Album Review 23/52
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