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coltrane firsthand

John Coltrane Groups. Various Locations, 1962 - 1966

Discographer Michael Fitzgerald (master of a content-rich web site listed on our Links page) provided the following series of mini-reports by a recent acquaintance, Sam Linde of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The comments in italics are by Michael, or provide dates and cross-references.

The first time I saw the Quartet was in March, 1962, at McKie's (63rd and Cottage Grove). Jones opened the first set with a drum solo, then Coltrane made it a drum-tenor duo. Tyner joined in (not soloing) and lastly Garrison walked on stage and the Quartet went right into the head of "Countdown." Saw the Coltrane Qt. three times during 1962-63. Much of his repertoire was from Giant Steps: Cousin Mary, Mr. P.C., Countdown. Since these titles were "owned" by Atlantic, he was unable to record them for Impulse.

McKie’s was a  venue in Chicago, long gone; this McKie’s performance is from a gig dated "March 7 - 18" by Porter (p. 367). The next paragraph refers to Sam's friend John, who was about the size of Cannonball Adderley

In the summer of 1962, John and I went to Chicago to see the Coltrane Quartet at McKie's. We got there early (I was and am a huge Elvin Jones fan), so as to see every minute. Shortly after sitting down in a booth right in front of Jones' Gretsch drum set, Jones came into the club. Took one look at friend John, stopped, looked at him and commented that he was a beautiful cat. After the set, Jones returned to kinda apologize: he didn't want to embarass my friend. One note: that night Elvin's drum set only had a snare and bass drum and one ride cymbal and hi-hats. At the end of the last set...we stayed the whole night...when the bar stools were being put away, Coltrane did "My Favorite Things" on tenor. Couldn't believe it.

Porter’s chronology dates this appearance as "August 15-26" (p. 367)

In May 1963, went down to McKie's to see the Quartet, however Roy Haynes was on drums. That was different...I enjoyed Haynes, but I certainly missed Elvin.

Sam is a drummer and it was Elvin's work (at first with J.J. Johnson in 1957) that really inspired him. This Elvin Jones fanaticism led him to work on an EJ discography back in 1966. Porter’s chronology dates this appearance as "May 1-12" (p. 369)

Saw the Quartet again in mid-summer Chicago...this time with Elvin.
Porter p.371 has this as "July 15-26" (p. 371)

In the fall of that year, I was attempting to go to graduate school at San Francisco State College and saw the Quartet several times at the Jazz Workshop. But something was missing from Coltrane's playing: He was playing  from the side of his mouth. Later on I learned that he was having difficulty with his teeth.
Porter p.371 has this as "October 6-18".

OK--next saw the Quartet at the Down Beat Jazz Festival in Aug. 1965, when John, McCoy, Jimmy and Elvin were joined by Archie Shepp and played one long tune...title unknown. (The Monk Quartet was also at the festival along with Woody Herman, Joe Daley, Bunky Green with Harold Jones on drums and Cecil Taylor with Jimmy Lyons and Andrew Cyrille.)

The Coltrane group appeared at the Down Beat Jazz Festival at "Soldier’s Field" in Chicago on August 15, 1965. A recording of the performance (a 37-minute version of "Blue Valse", the small group version of "Ascension", often listed as "Nature Boy") exists. Wild, p. 70; Fujioka p. 267

Lastly, in January-February 1966, saw the John Coltrane whatever in Madison...but this time he had Rashied Ali (no comment), Alice McLeod on piano, Pharoah Sanders and Jimmy Garrison. They did two performances in one night at UW's Great Hall, playing "Impressions", "My Favorite Things" and "Naima" at each concert.

--Sam Linde

Notes and Comments


References to the Chronology in Porter, Lewis; John Coltrane are interspersed with the text above.

Discography: A recording of the 'Down Beat' Jazz Festival performance is known to exist.

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