Sep 26, 2012
It's a question that jazz fans had to ponder. Why did the venerable Duke Ellington decide to record a session with John "Sheets of Sound" Coltrane? Fifty years ago to day they met at Rudy Van Gelder Studios, in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, to record tracks that would become an Impulse! Records releae early the next year.
The Duke had been recording collaborative albums for the first few years of the decade, including small group sessions with Coleman Hawkins, Louis Armstrong, and most importantly, Charles Mingus and Max Roach (Money Jungle). Into his sixties, Ellington needed some of the cache that hot young players might provide to keep being relevant to a younger jazz audience.
As for Coltrane, always one to honor his elders, it was likely an opportunity he couldn't pass up. He brought members of what had just become his Classic Quartet, and had Jimmy Garrison (bass) and Elvin Jones (drums) join him with the Duke. In the CD booklet, Coltrane would say:
"I was really honoured to have the opportunity of working with Duke. It was a wonderful experience. He has set standards I haven't caught up with yet. I would have liked to have worked over all those numbers again, but then I guess the performances wouldn't have had the same spontaneity. And they mightn't have been any better!"
Click here to listen to the quartet play "Take the Coltrane", a song writen by Ellington's right hand man, Billy Strayhorn.