John Coltrane is as important to American jazz as anyone else in the genre. Blue Train released in September 1957 is the quintessential be-bop record and certainly a record that should be in the collection of anyone serious or curious about American be-bop.
Recorded without contract after a verbal agreement with Blue Note Records founder Alfred Lion, Coltrane assembled what was likely the most formidable group of musicians a soloist could hope to assemble. Although the same could be said about Lee Morgan (trumpet), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Kenny Drew (piano) and Paul Chambers (bass), for my money Philly Joe Jones (drums) has a career highlight performance. Never mind Jones’ playing which is spot-on, the sound of his drums is just utterly delightful and the high-res mastering does the recording complete justice. Listen to the intro of Locomotion loud! But it is Coltrane's emotional and interpretative genius that makes this a standout set.
I bought Blue Train (replacing my 40 years old vinyl reissue that has most certainly seen better days) at 96kHz/24bit (FLAC), and while 192kHz/24bit was available, I’m still not sold on the benefits the extra five bucks gets me on a sixty-year-old recording.
But what a recording it is. Elements like Chambers’ frenetic bowed bass solo on Moment’s Notice or Fuller’s silky trombone solo on the title track just pop in all their elemental form, especially when compared to the Spotify high-quality stream.
The original recording is maybe a little light on bass, but keep in mind, it’s a natural recording of be-bop so thump shouldn’t be expected in the first place. The brass is brassy without being strident and the Coltrane’s sax is a smooth as a Remy Martin Sidecar.
Blue Train is a very nicely recorded icon of small-group be-bop and at 96kHz/24bit all of the joy and wonder of these pioneers of jazz music is on full aural display.