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An Oud is Not An Oud

I'm Feeling Lost and Rejected

The Abridged Alabama

Enhancing the Trane

Priceless But Cheap

General:  Tucked away here in their little paragraphs are a variety of bits of information about John Coltrane and specifically about his recordings.  Mostly these are FAQs (frequently asked or frequently answered questions) and in some cases WDSTMs (Why Didn't Somebody Tell Me?).  I will add bits and pieces here as time permits.  Some of these items are linked to the Coltrane discography which is available elsewhere in this WEB site.  These items are NOT likely to appear in the next game of Trivia, but they do shed light on some of the nooks and crannies of the Coltrane legacy.

An Oud is Not An Oud... To borrow from the Bachrach songbook (Tyner edition, I suppose)...The 1961 Village Vanguard sessions feature a strange nasal instrument, played by bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik, on two versions of Coltrane's India.  This identification has an equally  strange history.  By the time we began quarrying the Vanguard tapes in 1976 there was no information remaining to identify performers, dates and titles.  We pieced the identifications together from available sources, and one of our best sources was an article by the Swedish reporter Claes Dahlgren, who was at the Vanguard on November 2 1961.  Dahlgren said Abdul-Malik was playing oud, a double strung Middle Eastern instrument with 12 strings, which resembles a medieval lute with a narrow neck. Abdul-Malik (also a bassist) was known to play oud, but samples of his playing were unavailable (those records had gone out of print).  So we called it an oud and pressed on.

Except that it probably isn't an oud after all.  Richard Shapiro posted a note on rec.music.bluenote which said that an oud (essentially a large soft-spoken lute) doesn't make the raspy nasal sounds heard on India.   Shapiro suspected it to be a tamboura, which (to those who know both instruments) seems pretty accurate.  Abdul Malik is not known to have played tamboura (a relative of the sitar used in North Indian music to produce a droning pad of the root, fourth and fifth, over which the sitar or other instrument improvises), and here he strums it aggressively, in a non-traditional manner.  Sadly Abdul Malik died in November 1993 so we can no longer ask him about this minor puzzle.  Thus what kind of tamboura it is (the usual classical instrument or some folk variant), if it is a tamboura, or what else it might be (if not); whether it's a tamboura on each of the performances featuring Abdul-Malik; and other questions remain open.

Abdul Malik was joined on the stage by Garvin Bushell, playing another unusual (for jazz) instrument, the oboe.  Except that it's probably not an oboe, but an English horn (cor anglais), a less common and lower pitched relative.   Bushell, in an unpublished interview, said that he was playing English horn.  These two errors (and the misspelling of Barry Kernfeld's name as Kornfeld) will probably get corrected in the next century (when CDs go the way of 78's).

I'm Feeling Lost and Rejected.  The earliest discographies of John Coltrane, most notably the seminal listing done by Jorgen Grunnet Jepsen for Coda Magazine in 1968, mostly concerned themselves with dating and cataloguing the music that had been issued by the time of his death.  When I first started working with the Impulse material in 1976 I was able to catalogue and sort through the recordings which remained in the Impulse vaults (then in Los Angeles CA), and correct and greatly amplify the list of what had been recorded.  Most of the music we found back then has since been issued.   However, in going through the vaults we found information about music that no longer existed in the vaults.  Evidently outtakes were sometimes thrown out when the vault got full, on the assumption that they had no value, and thus some of Coltrane's unissued recordings probably wound up deep within a north LA County landfill.  To make it clear that such titles as "The Last Blues" from 6/10/65 no longer existed in the vaults, I called them "lost" in the second edition of The Recordings of John Coltrane: A Discography (1979). 

However, Coltrane had a habit of taking copies of his sessions home to listen to, and in recent years, with the significant assistance of his son Ravi, some of those recordings have resurfaced.  Notable among these was the Stellar Regions session  (2/15/67), most of which was not listed in the material at Impulse.  Yasuhiro Fujioka's discography changed my "lost" to "uni" (unissued) for these items, which is beginning to seem like a good idea. (And yes "The Last Blues" finally reappeared, earlier this year, on the Living Space cd), after being found in the Coltrane archives). Note that some of these recent additions (such as ":The Last Blues") are monoaural recordings, because they come from monaural reference tapes made for Coltrane. Others (such as the Stellar Regions material), come from the actual master tapes themselves. More of these recovered recordings should be released over the next few years.

In the process of compiling the music which was released on the 1977 The Other Village Vanguard Tapes and the 1979 Trane's Modes producer Michael Cuscuna selected the best of the remaining tracks for inclusion.  To indicate that the others would probably not be released, they were labeled as "rejected".  In retrospect it was a poor choice of words, since the music on those tracks is no less interesting than that which was released at the time.   And the rejects have been brought home again, in the recently released box set, which includes all 22 titles.  It's a fair assumption that other alternate takes will appear in the future.

The Abridged Alabama   The original release of Live at Birdland contained one of Coltrane's most affecting compositions, Alabama, in a version lasting about 5 minutes.  That version contains a statment of theme, followed by a very brief solo, and then a complete statement of the theme.  Except that this wasn't how it was supposed to go.  There were five takes of Alabama, with take 4 being incomplete (it breaks down as the solos start) and take 5 being a simple statement of the theme with no solos.  Somehow both takes were combined and issued.  When this became known (perhaps prior to Coltrane's death, although that's not certain), the fourth take was deleted, and take five alone was issued.  Thus there are two versions of Alabama on Impulse, a "correct" short one and and an "incorrect" long one.  (The Fujioka discography has a reliable listing of which issues have which version.) To hear a complete Alabama the listener will have to track down one of the different releases of the Ralph Gleason television show (Jazz Casual) from December 1963. For a discussion of The Edited Afro-Blue, see the note to session 631008.

Enhancing the Trane   There are currently two versions of the classic 1957 Blue Train session available on CD. One is the usual digital remastering of the original 5 titles. The other, under the title The Ultimate Blue Train, contains two alternate takes and a wealth of CD ROM (multimedia) material, including brief interviews with a number of musicians associated with Coltrane, photos from the session, a long interview with Rudy Van Gelder, etc (works with both Macs and PCs). One secret about the CD, though-the programmers hid the EXIT signs. If you're on the opening page, moving your cursor over the upper lethand corner of the LP cover will display the word EXIT. On the other pages, moving your cursor around the upper lefthand corner of the display should reveal the phrase AT LEAST LISTEN; click that space to return to the main page.

Priceless But Cheap   One of the banes of a discographer's existence are the collections of miscellaneous music by a major artist which recording companies toss out, usually around Christmas, as a way of making a couple of bucks without incurring any costs. Usually a few of these will wind up in the cutout bins of your favorite Kmart along about spring thaw, and it's a crapshoot as to whether they're worth the couple of bucks or not. GRP did a series this year called "Priceless Jazz" (I've heard it called Tasteless, but whatever), including sets by Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane. Someday these will get integrated into the discography, but for now I took the information (courtesy of Dave Hargis) and put it in its own little page. Click here to see the gory details...

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Dave Wild's WildPlace and its contents are protected by copyright and are published for non-commercial use only. Some of the contents of this site are based on The Recordings of John Coltrane: A Discography, (c) 1977, 1978, 1979 by David Wild and disc’ribe, Issues # 1, # 2, and # 3, (c) 1980, 1981 and 1983 by Angelyn and David Wild. All the usual legal protections apply. Click here to send mail to Dave Wild.