Open Letter to Fantasy Inc.
What follows is an open letter to Fantasy from jazz researcher David Tegnell. It contains a close analysis of the contents of the Live Trane box set. David's opinions are of course his own, and what Fantasy can realistically do about the errors at this point is an open questions. And I should be fair to Pablo and point out that only the Pablo releases are "commercial" (in the sense of being legitimate); the other issues were released without the consent of the artist or estate (i.e. they're "bootlegs"). However, the facts David lays out here are accurate and match what we know at the moment about the music contained in the set.
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Letter to Fantasy
To celebrate the 75th anniversary of John Coltranes birth, Fantasy/Pablo has released Live Trane: European Tours. This seven-disc, eight-hour-long box set, mixing previously released and unreleased material, is intended to chronicle Coltranes three European concert tours, 1961-1963. To persuade us that this release is definitive, the sets producer Eric Miller declares that he has emptied the vaults, and corrected previous discographical errors. He furthers this claim by asserting that he has been aided in his research by the most noted Coltrane authorities: "My research was greatly assisted by (discographer) Yasuhiro Fujioka, (biographer) Lewis Porter, and Yoh-Ichi Hamada they enabled us to discover and correct a few discrepancies in dates and locations that had been listed in the original Pablo releases. I am grateful to all for their efforts." During the past few weeks, several Coltrane listserv subscribers have analyzed and discussed the contents of the box set. We have determined that Miller has in actuality cleared up just one prior inaccuracy, while introducing numerous new errors. In brief, Miller has assigned incorrect dates and locations to eight (more than 20%) of the sets thirty-seven performances (see details below, or reference discographer David Wilds website--http://home.att.net/~dawild/livetrane.htm). We have also learned that neither Fujioka nor Porter was afforded the opportunity to hear the tapes, prior to their release.
Because of its size and availability, Live Trane likely will play a significant role--for years to comein the perception many listeners form of Coltranes musical identity during this period of his career. That perception, however, will be distorted, if the discographical errors are not corrected. Moreover, because the sets documentation appears to be authoritative, these errors will inevitably cause confusion, as well as undermine confidence in existing (and accurate) discographies. We therefore propose that Fantasy/Pablo retract, revise and reissue the sets accompanying booklet, if not the set itself. We also urge reviewers to note the errors, and alert consumers who might otherwise unwittingly purchase recordings they already own (or who may expect to acquire recordings that are not in the set).
Live Trane is something less than the promised comprehensive chronicle of Coltranes three European tours, 1961-63. While the annotator asserts that nine concerts are represented, our research indicates that the recordings derive from just five dates at three venues: Stockholm (61, 62, and 63), Paris (62), and Berlin (63). In fact, when corrected, the sets 1961 discography dwindles from nine performances at three locations to just six recordings from a single venue. Similarly, two tracks attributed by Miller to Paris, 1962, turn out to be yet more performances from the 1962 Stockholm concerts also on the set. The single performance attributed to Stuttgart, 1963, was in fact recorded at an as yet undetermined location and date. Most egregiously, the three tracks assigned to Hamburg, 1961, derive not from any European concert, but from a 1962 New York City (Birdland) club date.
The set is unbalanced. The number of performances from 1963 far exceeds those of 1961-62. The seventeen tracks included from that year constitute half the sets length. Leaving out the Birdland club date, eleven others are drawn from 1962; and just six come from 1961. Two concerts are presented in their entirety (Berlin and Stockholm); both date from 1963.
Fantasy/Pablo claims that half the music is new. In fact, only five tracks have not before been released commercially, in either Europe of the United States (and one of these has been privately circulated). Eighteen performances have previously appeared on the Pablo label; eleven have been issued by Historic Performances, three by Ozone. Just four performances are entirely new--that is, neither previously released commercially, nor circulated among collectors.
With the exception of the two complete concerts from 1963, the material is presented in fragmentary form. In two instances, performances derive from two successive concerts on the same date. Performances from these concerts are not differentiated, and in each case the recordings from the two sets are interleaved.. Here and elsewhere, the original performance order has been inexplicably altered. Even the sequence of the complete Stockholm 1963 concert has been changedfor no discernible reason. As a result, the listener is given the false impression that, upon completing "Traneing In," Coltrane (in the space of seven seconds) puts down his tenor and picks up his soprano, in order to play the head of "Mr. P.C.," only to return to the tenor for his solo. In reality, at that concert, Coltranes performance of "Mr. P.C." followed that of "My Favorite Things."
The following performances should have been grouped together, by concert, but were not (correct location , date, and concert are in parenthesis):
Disc 1, tracks 1-2, and track 4 (Stockholm 11/23/61, 2nd)
Disc 1, tracks 3, and tracks 5-6 (Stockholm 11/23/61, 1st)
Disc 2, tracks 4-7, and Disc 3, track 2 (Paris 11/17/62, 2nd)
Disc 3, track 3, and Disc 4, tracks 2-3 (Stockholm 11/19/62, 2nd)
Disc 3, tracks 3-4; and Disc 4, track 1 (Stockholm 11/19/62, 1st)
The eight corrected dates and locations are as follows (Pablos incorrect attributions are in parentheses):
Disc 1, tracks 1-2: Stockholm 11/23/61, concert #2 (Paris 11/18/61)
Disc 2, tracks 1-3: Birdland, NYC 2/9/62 (Hamburg 11/25/61)
Disc 3, tracks 3-4: Stockholm 11/19/62 (Paris 11/17/62)
Disc 7, track 4: Unknown location and date (Stuttgart 11/4/63)
The incorrect attributions occur only among the 18 tracks either previously unknown or previously released on labels other than Pablo. We have compared all recordings included on Live Trane with previously known legal commercial European releases, as well as, in two cases, bootleg and private recordings. The provenance of these performances has been largely accepted for twenty-five years, details of which can be found in the standard discographical reference work, John Coltrane: A Discography and Musical Biography, Scarecrow Press, 1995, by Fujioka, Porter, and Hamada. We are certain of our findings. We can only conclude that the producers of Live Trane failed to submit their tapes to the same test.
There are three recordings included in the box set for which no corresponding commercial release or private tape exists. We are presently unable to identify the dates and locations of these performances (again, Pablos attribution is in parenthesis):
Disc 3, track 2 (Paris 11/17/62)
Disc 6, track 1 (Paris 11/1/63)
Disc 7, track 4 (Stuttgart 11/4/63)
Of these recordings, we can say conclusively that 7:4 does not derive from Stuttgart, as stated by the producers of Live Trane. This is not the legendary performance of "Impressions" from that date. Likewise, 3:2, "My Favorite Things," is not from the first Paris concert, 11/17/62.
Scholarly estimation of John Coltranes work has risen, in recent years, as a new generation of musicologists has devised methods for examining and evaluating improvisatory music. Certainly, all of Coltranes music is worthy of preservation and study. Yet, despite the reverential tone adopted by Live Tranes annotators, the evidence suggests that Fantasy/Pablo has been remiss in its custodial responsibilities. Fantasy/Pablo has told us that the vaults are now exhausted, that nothing is left to release. But all but two of the concerts presented here are fragmentary. What has happened to the missing performances? We can only conclude that these and other recordings have been lost or discarded, perhaps deemed unworthy of retention. We believe that, for what remains, the least Fantasy/Pablo can do is set the record straight.
Fantasy Jazz may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing Fantasy Records, Tenth and Parker, Berkeley, CA 94710.
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