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Saxophonist John Coltrane was among the most important and most controversial figures in jazz, recognized as one of the great jazz artists of our time. Recorded June 22, 2007 by the virtuoso saxophonists Dave Liebman and Joe Lovano almost four years to the day after Coltrane’s death , this album brilliantly gives homage to the breadth of John Coltrane’s relatively short but momentous musical legacy, featuring pianist Phil Markowitz, bassist Ron McClure and drummer Billy Hart. Recorded a decade ago at the legendary Clinton Recording Studios in NYC for the BBC radio show "Something Else," the newly revealed session celebrates the semi centennial of Coltrane's passing on July 17, 1967 with a seven-tune repertoire that covers each significant creative stage of Coltrane's recorded legacy.
It was in late June 2007 that NEA Jazz Master DaveLiebman received a call from Robert Abel, the producer of BBC's popular radio program "Something Else." Noting that July 17, 2007 marked the 40th anniversary of John Coltrane's passing, Robert asked if he could bring in Saxophone Summit, Liebman's outfit co-led with Grammy Award-winner Joe Lovano and Ravi Coltrane, to record an all-Coltrane program for the show. With the recording date just a few weeks away, Liebman managed to assemble regular members Lovano, Phil Markowitz, and Billy Hart along with Ron McClure as a substitute for the unavailable Cecil McBee. Recorded on June 22, 2007, almost forty years to the day after John Coltrane's death, the quintet laid down 50+.
To commemorate Coltrane's semi centennial, there are arguably no other musicians better equipped for the job. The influence of John Coltrane on each member of the quintet cannot be overstated; as Billy Hart says in the liner notes, "we're just all unbelievable Coltrane fans." He estimates that between the five of them, the study of Coltrane's music has amounted to over 200 years.
To celebrate the Coltrane anniversary, Liebman and Lovano decided that for this particular session they would broaden their scope to include music from all of Coltrane's musical periods, thus producing a wide-ranging exploration that showcases six distinctive phases of his legacy. "Each period represents such a different outlook and concept that it's incredible to imagine that one man accomplished all of this in such a short period," says Liebman in the Compassion liner notes.
Compassion opens with "Locomotion," one of Coltrane's many compositional twists on the blues that first made an appearance on Blue Train (Coltrane's only Blue Note recording) in 1958. "Locomotion" not only sets the stage for Compassion, but also served as an integral jumping off point in Coltrane's musical development. As Lovano states in the liner notes, many of the intervals heard on "Locomotion" can be found in later Coltrane works - the main theme of A Love Supreme being just one example.
Compassion moves forward with a ballad medley that includes the harmonically rich "Central Park West," featuring Lovano and " Dear Lord," which Liebman has referred to as "one of the most amazing compositions in the world."
The inclusion of "Olé" signifies Coltrane's well-documented interest in world music. A modal excursion with a Spanish tinged melody (borrowed heavily from the Spanish folk song "El Vito"), " Olé" served as a precursor to Trane's later explorations of other cultures (tunes such as "India," "Dakur" and "Brasilia" come to mind).
Named for Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., "Reverend King" is a completely diatonic study in free time that features a rare appearance of Liebman on flute, followed by "Equinox," which, like the opening track, is another version of the blues. The album then comes to a close with "Compassion," from which the recording gets its namesake, brings us into Trane's late period (1965-1967) with the second movement of his Meditations suite. "Subsequent song titles point toward Trane's intense spiritual journey of this period - "Amen," "To Be" and many more - all emphasizing the constant group interaction with little steady pulse or direct harmonic progressions," says Liebman.
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