Tuesday, June 23, 2020


My main things in terms of collecting live concerts and endless variations of the same song are improv and soloing. When it comes to studio albums it’s songwriting, performance and recording. However, there is no end to the number of versions of a given song I can listen to if the band involved can improvise meaningfully and the individuals can solo interestingly. In Jazz, the king daddy for me is John Coltrane. He proved himself a great player, arranger and soloist early in his career-especially during his time with Miles Davis’ groundbreaking band, but in the mid-60’s, his LPs on Impulse records contain THE most incendiary soloing and the headiest improvisation in modern jazz. I remember the first time I brought 1966’s Ascension home, it scared me to death. Trane’s ferocious soloing, able to drill down to hell or scream heavenward in 2 bars while his incredible band-including Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones on this album was right with him, the blood pressure to his heartbeat-many of them equally impressive soloists. I was terrified and thrilled to hear someone screaming through their instrument this way. I had heard Hendrix and other rockers do it, but it was often in a pretty conventional setting. Trane was reaching new space-finding music that had never been heard or even thought of before. The only way I can describe it, is when Coltrane is in full blow mode, I feel the need to be alone with the music-loud. It’s not music you can easily share with others. Like really dirty comedy records, you feel the need to close the door, roll up the windows and listen without judgement. Trane has plenty of more easily digested music, but the string of albums from about 62 until his death in 67 are unparalleled in their cosmic intensity. The search for original copies of most of Trane’s albums obsessed me for many years. I’ve got a bunch now, and they are some of my most prized LPs. Dig!

-Paul Epstein


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