Rafi Zabor’s Updoc, Fri. 8/15 & Tues. 8/19

There’s a general notion that when John Coltrane kicked his heroin habit in the spring of 1957 he pretty much turned into Superman, and that notion is generally correct; but while working on a book project, with discography in hand and music in ear, I’ve done a lot of close, nerdic listening and come up with some interpretative detail, and I wanted to air some of my Tranespotting’s results on this week’s Updoc—Friday at 8PM and noon next Tuesday, Five Spot time. The upshot is that Trane’s epochal six-month gig with Thelonious Monk at the Five Spot was crucial to everything he would play in the future: hardly earthshaking news—my friend Mike Zwerin was there almost every night and told me that ‘everybody’ knew this was the biggest thing to happen in jazz since Bird—but there’s always something new to learn about an event of such scope. You can tell from Coltrane’s first recording after getting well—his eponymous leader date for Prestige—that he’s no longer a brilliant but somehow impaired player: his sound has doubled in strength and his lines don’t break when they head for the sky; but a couple of months later he’s in trouble and faltering on the great Monk’s Music “little red wagon” date, and there’s the rumor that Monk’s callout “Coltrane, Coltrane!” was meant to pull the relapsed junkie from his nod to the microphone; but I side with producer Orrin Keepnews, who said that Monk was making sure of the solo order. What happens to Trane on Epistrophy and Well You Needn’t is Monk showing him how much he still had to learn, and Monk throws a wealth of inconvenient chordal architecture at the tenorist to prove it. How quickly Coltrane assimilated the lesson led to the complexification of his already arpeggiated style and to those famous sheets of sound. Tune in and see how; though don’t worry, I’ll keep the chatter brief and let your ears find their way (the book pages look like something by David Foster Wallace). Anyway, after a lot of Coltrane intensity we cool off with a Mozart piano concerto and then join John Coltrane, appropriately, in saying Dear Lord.MonkTraneLarge

One Response to “Rafi Zabor’s Updoc, Fri. 8/15 & Tues. 8/19”

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