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'Blue World' review - Rediscovering John Coltrane's only original film soundtrack / Frieze

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The ‘lost' record captures the saxophonist at a time when he was thinking that albums could aspire to be something grander than a string of loosely woven tunes

In 1964, the Quebec-based film director Gilles Groulx flew into New York to attend the recording sessions for the music he had commissioned for his forthcoming film, Le chat dans le sac (The Cat in the Bag, 1964). At the time, Groulx was attempting to forge a new identity for Canadian cinema. He was interested in the work of Jean-Luc Godard, in the improvisational approach to filmmaking with which John Cassavetes had experimented in Shadows (1959), and in querying the boundaries between artifice and reality by employing non-professional actors who brought something of their own lives to the film. He was also passionate about jazz, and about John Coltrane in particular. Groulx happened to know Coltrane's bass player, Jimmy Garrison, and used him as an intermediary to request music for his film. Coltrane agreed and, on 24 June 1964, took his quartet – with Garrison, Elvin Jones (drums) and McCoy Tyner (piano) – into the Van Gelder Studios in New Jersey to record what would be his only original film soundtrack.

Let's get the disappointing news over with first: Blue World (2019) is no undiscovered jazz masterwork likely to change any hearts and minds about Coltrane. Recorded during a period in the musician's development when he was thinking that albums could aspire to be something grander than a string of loosely woven together tunes, he never meant this music to be released in album form.

All that said, 40 minutes of previously unheard Coltrane is to be celebrated; every note he recorded is of interest. But this material would have been suited more to bonus tracks inside some grander reissue project. It's beautifully recorded and we get to hear the great John Coltrane Quartet in action. Forced into being an album, though, it's too flimsy to hang together.  PHOTO: Jim Marshall

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