September 19, 2006


A Weekend on the 'Trane (WILL FRIEDWALD, September 19, 2006, NY Sun)

When John Coltrane introduced "Chasin' the Trane" 45 years ago at The Village Vanguard, he immediately split the jazz world in two. It was perhaps the most extreme, avant-garde piece of jazz ever heard. Although "Chasin'" has come to be regarded as one of Coltrane's masterpieces, the piece continues to have a polarizing effect on listeners: Either you're for it or against it.

Jazz at Lincoln Center prominently featured "Chasin' the Trane" at both of the concerts in its celebration of Coltrane's 80th birthday this weekend. On Friday, it was played in the original trio format (with just bass and drums) by tenor saxophonist Todd Williams; then on Saturday, it was arranged for the JLC Orchestra by musical director Wynton Marsalis. In both cases, it was a considerably defanged version. The tune was stripped of its shrieks and squawks and its power to shock. Yet even shorn of those more controversial aspects, "Chasin' the Trane" continues to hold up as a fundamental, earthy blues, and it still sounds very good, even if it may no longer be what Coltrane intended when he spontaneously composed it at the Vanguard.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 19, 2006 12:00 AM
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