John Coltrane: Blue World

Impulse! label will release lost recordings made for Canadian film recorded between Crescent and A Love Supreme.

New material from a jazz artist of John Coltrane’s stature is a big deal coming fifty-one years following his horribly premature death at age 40. Last year’s Both Directions at Once chronicled the saxophonist and his famous and most longstanding quartet working their way from the harmonic virtuosity of Giant Steps towards the modal droning of Crescent and A Love Supreme. It was a release that did not disappoint, offering rare glimpses into Coltrane’s development as a player that went far beyond some alternate takes or warmed over session leftovers. 

Now Impulse! records will release Blue World, (Sept. 27) a recording of the quartet performing new versions of previously recorded compositions that were done for a French Canadian new wave film. The film’s director, Gilles Groulx, enjoyed jazz and was particularly a fan of Coltrane’s music. He asked the saxophonist to provide the film’s soundtrack, and the quartet recorded Blue World‘s 37-minute session between Crescent and A Love Supreme. The tracks are all versions of previously recorded work due to contractual issues, but they are full-throated performances of songs one might have heard the group play live at the time. 

The album will include two takes of Coltrane’s classic ballad “Naima,” three versions of “Village Blues” and one each of “Traneing In,” “Like Sonny,” and “Blue World.” 

John Coltrane: Impressions of his life and music

Though Blue World is touted as a ‘lost album’ of Coltrane’s, it wasn’t so much lost as hiding in plain sight. The movie that Groulx made, Le Chat dans le Sac (The cat in the bag), is readily available for viewing, but in the end Groulx only used around 10 minutes of Coltrane’s music. The sessions weren’t noted in the studio log and so the existence of these tracks was glossed over.

It was unusual for Coltrane to revisit already-recorded tracks in the studio. In his liner notes, Coltrane authority Ashley Kahn writes that the work on Blue World offers listeners ” the chance to compare these versions with previous perspectives, revealing both Coltrane’s personal progress and the interactive consistency and sonic details the Classic Quartet had firmly established as their collective signature by 1964.”

What makes Blue World feel like a real Coltrane release as opposed to something cobbled together by a record label or producer looking to ‘create’ a release is the fact that the material was all recorded at the same time and hasn’t been submitted to heavy-duty editing or other manipulation. 

Since the 1980s jazz music has been a genre whose value rests largely on reissues and new discoveries of music by acknowledged giants of the pantheon. As in rock music, the work that is discovered is of varying value and differs in whether it was or wasn’t intended to be released. 

Coltrane’s catalog has been well served by Impulse! and other labels, by his estate, and by writers like Kahn. Because there is so much of recorded work available by Coltrane, the biggest question that listeners will ask isn’t whether this is a worthwhile listening experience (it is), but whether they are interested in hearing it. 

Blue World offers a charming footnote to the work heard on Both Directions at Once and gives fans another opportunity to experience this amazingly fertile period of creativity in the brief life of one of music’s most revered artists.

Coltrane at NDIM

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.