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Music Review
A Trio of Archival Discoveries
From the Wall Street Journal of Tue, 23 Dec 2014 19:05:15 EST

Some of the most interesting jazz recordings released this autumn were recorded decades ago, but they aren’t reissues of previously released material. Instead, they are part of a growing genre known as archival discoveries—live recordings from long ago that have been cleaned up with modern technology and released officially for the first time.

Three of these recordings—“Offering: Live at Temple University” (Resonance) by saxophonist John Coltrane, “Hamburg ’72” (ECM) by the trio of pianist Keith Jarrett, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Paul Motian, and “Manhattan Stories” (Resonance) by Charles Lloyd—offer superb performances at pivotal moments in the musicians’ careers while prefiguring many current jazz trends.

Coltrane’s November 1966 concert at Temple University was broadcast and recorded by the college’s radio station, WRTI-FM. Portions have been on the bootleg circuit for years, but “Offering” marks the first release of the full show. Two years removed from the recording of his masterpiece, “A Love Supreme” (Impulse!), the saxophonist was pushing deeper into the avant-garde. His band had changed substantially, with his wife, Alice, taking over the piano chair. Rashied Ali was now the drummer, and a second reedman, Pharoah Sanders, was added to the ensemble.

The sound of this band was bracing. Even in his days as a sideman with Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk in the ’50s, Coltrane had played music with an edgy quality, but now he played long, dissonant solos. To audiences in the ’60s, this was controversial and divisive, and many jazz fans still shun this phase of Coltrane’s work. To my ears, after decades of listening to such profound acolytes of Coltrane’s music as Charles Gayle, David S. Ware and Peter Brötzmann, this period of his work seems fundamental to understanding his impact on jazz today.

Keith Jarrett, Charlie Haden and Paul Motian in Hamburg in 1972.
Keith Jarrett, Charlie Haden and Paul Motian in Hamburg in 1972. ECM Records

The music on “Offering” is engrossing. The concert features staples of the Coltrane repertoire, including “Naima,” “Crescent” and “My Favorite Things,” but these renditions are unique. The saxophonist plays with a raw fury that suggests field hollers and the extremity of gospel devotional singing. Mr. Sanders matches the leader’s intensity, but Alice Coltrane’s solos take the music into a quieter, more meditative place. The concert features several additional musicians, a troupe of drummers, and a couple of saxophonists. Their performances, as well as segments when John Coltrane chants, lend the proceedings an informal air, as if the concert were a jam session in a neighborhood park.

“Hamburg ’72” is from a German radio broadcast in July of that year, during the band’s first European tour. Mr. Jarrett’s current trio with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette is one of the cornerstone groups in jazz, and this performance by an earlier unit offers a blueprint for their elegant intimacy and more. The group formed in 1966, and it brought together alumni of two of jazz’s most important bands. Mr. Haden had played with the Ornette Coleman Quartet of the late ’50s and early ’60s, and Mr. Motian was part of the Bill Evans Trio from 1960 until 1964. The influence of Messrs. Coleman and Evans was particularly evident in the band’s first recordings, but by this juncture it had receded into the background. The ensemble sections are riveting and fluid, and they bring to mind current bands like Chad Taylor’s Circle Down. Emblematic of the era, the solo passages are long, but they are enthralling.

“Manhattan Stories” collects two privately recorded concerts by the Charles Lloyd Quartet in 1965. At the time, Mr. Lloyd was an up-and-coming player in the jazz community. Following stints in bands led by drummer Chico Hamilton and saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, Mr. Lloyd showcased his own compositions on “Of Course, Of Course” (Columbia, 1965). Two members of his band for the recording, bassist Ron Carter and guitarist Gábor Szabó, perform on “Manhattan Stories”; drummer Pete La Roca rounds out the ensemble. These are the only known documents of this quartet; Mr. Lloyd formed a new band in 1966 and recorded “Forest Flower: Live at Monterey” (Atlantic), which became one of the first jazz recordings to sell a million units.

The music on “Manhattan Stories” is limber and eclectic. It was recorded at Judson Hall in midtown Manhattan during Charlotte Moorman’s Annual Avant Garde Festival of New York and at Slugs Saloon in the East Village. Slugs was an epicenter for everything from mainstream to experimental jazz—much as The Stone, located just around the corner, is today—and Mr. Lloyd’s quartet embodied this range. Mr. Carter’s deep bass grooves anchor the music, while the reedman and guitarist take probing solos. It is not hard to hear a connection between this band and similarly varied groups like Bigmouth, the band led by bassist Chris Lightcap.

Many archival discoveries are now dominating the marketplace. Two such discs are of bands led by Miles Davis, while others feature the piano greats Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Red Garland. This looks like a trend that is going to last.

Mr. Johnson writes about jazz for the Journal.

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