Review - The Classic Quartet: Complete Impulse! Studio Recordings

Artist: John Coltrane Quartet

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Neoclassicists might give only qualified approval to this eight-CD collection that tracks the celebrated tenor saxophonist's studio recordings with pianist McCoy Tyner, drummer Elvin Jones and bassist Jimmy Garrison from December 1961 through September 1965. That's because this immeasurably influential jazz ensemble, responsible for such albums as "Ballads," "Live at Birdland," "Crescent" and "A Love Supreme," truly specialized in the sound of surprise, as critic Whitney Balliett once dubbed jazz. The quartet was finely tuned, as impressive on the leader's blues, bebop and ballad tunes as on redesigns of popular songs such as "The Inchworm," "All or Nothing at All," "Nature Boy" and "What's New?"

The second half of the set has Coltrane and company stretching time, experimenting with atonality and pushing into the spiritually centered, more free terrain of "Suite," "Attaining," "Compassion," "Joy" and other pieces. The final disc is a collection of works in progress, with incomplete takes and snatches of band discussions.

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