Classic Recordings: John Coltrane – Blue Train

John Coltrane – Blue Train

Blue Note (Vinyl)

By Paul Rigby

John Coltrane was an innovator and, like any innovator, he clashed with the traditional ear. Some critics enjoyed his adventurous experiments and new musical pathways while others railed against, what they saw as, an angry noise. Coltrane himself. While reflecting on the then current release of the album, ‘Blue Train’, responded, “The reason I may sound angry is that I’m trying so many things at one time. I haven’t sorted them out. I’m working through the whole bag to get that one essential. There are some set devices that I know that will take me out of the ordinary path but I haven’t played them enough and I’m not familiar enough to take one single line through them so that I play all of them, trying to acclimate my ears. I’d like to produce a more beautiful – lyrical – sound but, for now, I’m trying to put what I know down so that it will become more easily understood. Of the albums that I’ve made, I like ‘Blue Train’. It’s such a good band on there, you know? It was a good recording.”

And they included Lee Morgan on trumpet, Curtis Fuller on trombone, the piano seat was occupied by Kenny Drew with Paul Chambers on bass and Philly Joe Jones handling the percussion. ‘Blue Train’ was a unique release for Coltrane and Blue Note because it was to be his only release as a leader for the label. As a piece of work, it showed that critical ‘anger’, yes, but also how Coltrane worked easily as a leader, pumping out hard bop vibes as well as more delicate ballad work.

Despite the exemplary work provided by Coltrane, the backbone of the album, especially the title track, is Fuller’s trombone work which sets a pleasant, even pace to the music, providing a ‘tone’ for the album as a whole, even when the music becomes more energetic, such as on ‘Locomotion’.

As a piece of crafted jazz and taking each member’s contribution into consideration, ‘Blue Train’ can not only be seen as one of Coltrane’s most important releases but it is one the genre’s most important works. A true classic, it shows just what is possible in the field of jazz.

Stand-out track: Blue Train

As with most jazz, the music lives in the upper midrange areas and it’s no different here, especially with the triple horn arrangement that was a trademark of this album. You are looking for a hi-fi system with no harsh, bright presentation but enough clarity to let the pure tones of each horn to work and be individually recognised.

Blue Train – A Recorded History

1957 LP Blue Note BLP 1577

1977 LP Blue Note BNS 40009

1985 CD Blue Note CDP 7 46095 2

1997 LP/CD  Blue Note 0777 7 46095 1 7

2003 CD/LP Blue Note 7243 5 91721 2 5, 591 7212

2010 LP Not Now Music NOTLP123


  • Nicolas Ponomarenko says:

    Coltrane is the cardinal point you refer people to when you want them to experience jazz ..

  • willi says:

    whats the best speaker for jazz from b&m below €15k. who kows?

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