Title: “Blue Train”
Artist: John Coltrane
Release date: 1958
Favorite track: “Old Fashioned”
I don’t know a whole lot about jazz — except that I enjoy it.
I also know there are many different styles, each with their own nuances. Some of them differ greatly from one another.
What I’ve done with jazz — like other genres — is start with the greats. I’ve enlisted Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Nat King Cole and, of course, John Coltrane as my guides to this style of music.
I’m glad I chose this route, because it’s allowed me to experience the genre in its truest form, its original form. Each of the aforementioned names were pioneers of jazz, the people who laid the foundation for what it is today.
I’ve mentioned it before, but my favorite jazz song (still) is John Coltrane’s version of “My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music.” It’s the first jazz track I stumbled upon through YouTube, and it affected me in an inexplicable way.
Coltrane was a prominent saxophonist and composer during his time. From what I’ve researched, he dabbled in bebop, hard bop and pioneered free jazz. He was also known for his spiritual nature in music and life.
I’ve been excited to add Coltrane’s 1958 album “Blue Train” to my collection. FWB Vintage Records special ordered this reissue for me because vintage jazz vinyl is extremely pricey. The 1958 album was released under the record label Blue Note Records.
Eventually, I hope to own much more jazz vinyl and fully understand its musical complexities.
The title track exceeds 10 minutes.
I’ve come to expect this with jazz. I see it in the same way I see jam bands. The instruments are the focus, and they take you on a journey that might be long or short, depending on how the musician feels during its time of recording.
What I like about the opening track, “Blue Train,” is the diversity exhibited throughout the song. It starts with a mysterious tone that might accompany film noir, but leads into something far more musically ostentatious.
The saxophone takes over in a showy way until the seven-minute mark, when the piano comes out to play. I love the way it transitions from a rushed to a smoother style. It ends with the plucking of an upright bass.
When the song is over, I feel as if I’ve listened to three or four different songs that flowed easily from one to the next. Coltrane composed “Blue Train” and every other song on the record except “Old Fashioned,” by Johnny Mercer and Jerome Kern.
“Moment’s Notice” is much faster paced than the title track and almost as long. It’s a happy, energetic song that musically defines its title.
I was definitely taken aback and impressed with the speed of the instrumentation. As a non-musician, I picked up on the skill behind it. This song was recorded by various other jazz musicians, and I can see why.
“Locomotion” is a seven-minute song with an equally quick pace as “Moment’s Notice.” It maintains a little more repetition to latch onto, which I realize isn’t as big of an asset for instrumental jazz music as it is for music with lyrics.
I like how “Locomotion” features a 30-second percussion solo. This forced me to pay more attention to what had been there all along.
I was curious what differences I would notice in “Old Fashioned,” the only song on the album not composed by Coltrane. It was written for the 1942 film “You were Never Lovelier” and did have lyrics — although not on this album.
It’s much slower. I would consider it a romantic style of jazz, characterized by the smooth sound of instruments, elongated notes and dreamy music. I’m fond of this pleasant, soothing style.
“Lazy Bird” is easily my favorite song title. It’s suspected to be related to the name of Tadd Dameron’s composition “Lady Bird.”
There are bonus tracks on various versions of the album, but these were the primary five. Of them, I enjoyed the easy listening of “Old Fashioned” the most. I also admired the versatile nature of “Blue Train.”
This blue-screened photo of Coltrane on the album art is quite striking. In some ways, it truly epitomizes the feel of jazz. It’s mysterious, a little dark, but still quite beautiful.
The green and white typography on my reissue is modern, fitting and strategically placed.