Stories » The fascination in John Coltrane's 'LostAlbum' lies in its incompleteness /

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The fascination in John Coltrane's 'LostAlbum' lies in its incompleteness /

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‘Lost', or previously unheard, albums by the great saxophonist John Coltrane show up relatively often. In 2005, a set recorded by the John Coltrane Quartet at a downtown Manhattan jazz club in 1965 was released as Live at the Half Note: One Down, One Up; in 2014 one of Coltrane's final concert performances was served up as Offering: Live At Temple University; and in 2015 a definitive reissue of his masterwork A Love Supreme incorporated a rarely heard live performance alongside a bunch of previously unreleased studio outtakes. Such albums are invariably released to tremendous fanfare, only for Coltrane obsessives to claim on internet jazz forums that they are hearing nothing new – this supposedly ‘new' Coltrane has, in fact, been circulating for years in various unofficial versions of dubious legal provenance.

But Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album (2018) is different. Freshly released last week on Impulse! Records, the set makes available nearly 90 minutes's worth of hitherto unheard music recorded by the John Coltrane Quartet on 6 March 1963 at the Englewood Cliffs studio in New Jersey. Englewood Cliffs, owned by the legendary record engineer Rudy Van Gelder, was where Coltrane recorded a string of albums that have proved central to the development of modern jazz: Africa/Brass (1961), A Love Supreme (1965) and Ascension (1966), and his quartet in 1963 included McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass) and Elvin Jones (drums), a meeting of profound musical minds and a group of unparalleled visceral force and enduring influence. Little wonder jazz fans have been salivating at the prospect.