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Blue Train heralds a movement forward for John Coltrane, Jazz

John Coltrane in 1963
Hugo van Gelderen (Anefo)
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John Coltrane in 1963

The ferment and collaboration of Jazz music in 1950s New York City led to many of my favorite records before or since. John Coltrane’s 1959 Blue Note album Blue Train is one of my favorites, for how it sounds and in the way that it marks a transition in his playing, a move forward from the strictures of Hard Bop. When he recorded Blue Train he was working as a member of Thelonius Monk’s band, in between stints with Miles Davis. A year and a half after Blue Train Coltrane would record Kind of Blue with Miles and two weeks after that he would record Giant Steps, placing him at the center of Jazz innovation as the 1960s beckoned. Blue Train is different in terms of Coltrane’s playing style and harmonics, and he wrote all but one of the songs. Coltrane’s band for the record included Miles’ Kind of Blue rhythm section of Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. They brought in pianist Kenny Drew to the group. Jazz Messenger Lee Morgan plays trumpet. Future Jazz Messenger Curtis Fuller filled out the sextet on trombone. Blue Train is a great snapshot of Jazz and John Coltrane in 1959 and a foreshadowing of where they were headed. I’ll feature the title track Blue Train on Mainstream and Modern tonight in the ten o'clock hour.

Rob Maynard is WCLK Operations Manager and produces various public affairs programs for WCLK, including The Local Take With Kiplyn Primus, CAU Connects, and Drive Time With Dr. Douglass. He also hosts Mainstream and Modern on Sunday nights 8pm-11pm.