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C.A.T.: Giant Steps

John Coltrane – Giant Steps (1960)

This’ll probably be the last jazz album I’ll do as we head into that wonderful decade of music that was the sixties.  When I was first getting in to jazz in high school this was probably the album that really hooked me in like no other, and it’s still one of those few jazz albums that I find to be pretty much flawless song for song.

This wasn’t Coltrane’s first album as band leader, but it was the one that really established him as his own musical force after parting with Miles Davis’s band after taking part in 1959’s Kind Of Blue.  You can really hear ‘Trane taking full stock in his “sheets of sound” style, while the rest of the band has no problem keeping up with his furious playing.  Giant Steps also saw Coltrane breaking out as a composer, as it’s the first album in which he composed every track, and the melodic quality of the songs are about as good as any Coltrane I’ve heard.

I guess what I always loved about the album is the way it basically just goes for broke with each song.  From the opening chords of the album’s title track, it’s pretty much nothing but really fast, really frantic playing, but the musicians on hand are more than game for it.  And luckily the album slows down a bit for the more laid-back “Naima”, one of Coltrane’s more notable ballads.

Basically, if you want to figure out whether you like jazz or not, I’d probably say this would be as good as any album to try on for size.  It’s also an example of how Coltrane didn’t really subscribe to the idea that jazz was about “the notes you don’t play”, as he always seemed bent on putting every little idea he could into each one of his solos.

Favorite Tracks: “Giant Steps”, “Naima”, “Mr. P. C.”

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