John Coltrane

One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note
(Impulse! Records)

Jazz lizards are righteously euphoric these days on the news that Blue Note Records just released a previously unknown 1957 Carnegie Hall recording that pairs saxophone legend John Coltrane with his onetime mentor and fellow genius Thelonious Monk. Such rarities seem to surface about once every decade, so it's startling to learn that Impulse! has countered that punch with One Down, One Up, a gorgeous double-disc set capturing Coltrane fronting his famed mid-'60s quartet in two blistering shows at New York's tiny Half Note club in 1965. Only four songs make up the 90 minutes of music here (which comes from tapes recently unearthed in the Coltrane family closet), but their intensity is staggering. Pianist McCoy Tyner, drummer Elvin Jones and bassist Jimmy Garrison play as if they are fueled by liquid oxygen, but Coltrane, of course, steals the show, as he easily laps his bandmates with his famed, marathon-like solos -- particularly his 25-minute journey deep into the title track. The collection will leave listeners gasping for air, but it also serves as a reminder that NASA wasn't the only outfit at the forefront of jet-propelled explorations into space four decades ago.

 
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