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John Coltrane Quartet

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(1960 – 1966)

John Coltrane formed his first group, a quartet, in 1960. After moving through different personnel including Steve Kuhn, Pete LaRoca, and Billy Higgins, the lineup stabilized in the fall with pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Steve Davis, and drummer Elvin Jones. Tyner, from Philadelphia, had been a friend of Coltrane’s for some years and the two men long had an understanding that the pianist would join Coltrane when Tyner felt ready for the exposure of regularly working with him. Also recorded in the same sessions were the later released albums Coltrane’s Sound and Coltrane Plays the Blues.

Still with Atlantic Records, for whom he had recorded Giant Steps, his first record with his new group was also his debut playing the soprano saxophone on the hugely successful My Favorite Things. Around the end of his tenure with Miles Davis, Coltrane had begun playing soprano saxophone, an unconventional move considering the instrument’s near obsolescence in jazz at the time. His interest in the straight saxophone most likely arose from his admiration for Sidney Bechet and the work of his contemporary, Steve Lacy, even though Miles Davis claimed to have given Coltrane his first soprano saxophone.

The new soprano sound was coupled with further exploration. For example, on the George Gershwin tune “But Not for Me”, Coltrane employs the kinds of restless harmonic movement (Coltrane changes) used on Giant Steps (movement in major thirds rather than conventional perfect fourths) over the A sections instead of a conventional turnaround progression. Several other tracks recorded in the session utilized this harmonic device, including “26-2,” “Satellite,” “Body and Soul,” and “The Night Has A Thousand Eyes.”

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