The 1998 reissue of Giant Steps contains all the original tracks and liner notes plus additional tracks and rare photos. John Coltrane’s maiden voyage for Atlantic Records was the fulfillment of all the potential he’d demonstrated with Miles, Monk and on his own Prestige recordings. Recorded in May 1959 (one month after completing Davis’ KIND OF BLUE
), Giant Steps is Coltrane’s first recital to feature nothing but his own original compositions, and is the culmination of his obsessive foray into harmony. By taking all of the notes in a chord–and trying to find every possible inversion and relevant substitution–the saxophonist was forced to develop a complex new form of melodic phrasing that enabled him to rhythmically crowd every permutation into a single phrase. The effect is not only technically impressive, but an emotional marvel as well. On equestrian events such as the up-tempo title tune and “Countdown,” Coltrane blazes through the changes with a torrential effusion of ideas, each phrase connected to the next with unerring logic and a sublime sense of symmetry. Every note in the lower, middle and upper register of his horn is articulated with power, precision and a variety of expressive timbres. His manipulation of overtones and multiphonics imparts a hair-raising vocal immediacy to his cry, and each solo culminates in a stirring emotional catharsis. This is bebop to the tenth power. But the joy of Coltrane’s art is not predicated on its intellectual dexterity. The charming stop-time cadences of “Syeeda’s Song Flute” depict an upbeat, child-like disposition, inspiring a particularly celebratory Coltrane solo. The vamping figures of “Cousin Mary” and “Mr. P.C.” lead to solos permeated with blues fervor. And of course, there’s “Naima” (written for John’s first wife), one of the saxophonist’s tenderest, most enduring themes, with a melody that floats above Tommy Flanagan’s serene chordal colors like a solitary cloud at dusk.
||Syeeda’s Song Flute
||Mr. P. C.
Personnel: John Coltrane (tenor saxophone); Tommy Flanagan, Wynton Kelly, Cedar Walton (piano); Paul Chambers (bass); Art Taylor, Lex Humphries, Jimmy Cobb (drums). Producer: Nesuhi Ertegun. Reissue producer: Bob Carlton, Patrick Milligan. Recorded at Atlantic Studios, New York, New York on April 1, May 4 and December 2, 1959. Includes liner notes by Nat Hentoff. Digitally remastered by Bill Inglot & Dan Hersch (DigiPrep).