John Coltrane- Crescent (1964)
Updated: May 9
John Coltrane- Crescent
Released July 1964
Recorded April 27 and June 1, 1964.
Crescent is a studio release by John Coltrane and his classic quartet featuring (McCoy Tyner-piano, Elvin Jones drums, and Jimmy Garrison bass) with only five tracks. The album is dark, moody, reflective, and meditative. It is the first full studio release by the classic lineup without guests. "Crescent" foreshadows their next full studio album release, A Love Supreme (1965, Impulse!). However, there is an album called Blue World (Impulse!), recorded after Crescent and before A Love Supreme but not released till 2019.
(+ means "recommended track" and * means released as a single)
Track 1- "Crescent" begins with an out-of-time (rubato) opening from Trane and the band showcasing the saxophonist's preaching style. Around the 1:30 minute mark, bassist Jimmy Garrison settles into a walking bass line, and drummer Elvin Jones offers a steady swing feel as Coltrane begins his solo exploration. Pianist McCoy Tyner's comping style and chord voicings are always such an essential part of the Coltrane sound during this period notable. Trane is as brilliant as ever during his improvisation, including his searching quality, in which he reaches for ideas that are never formulaic or contrived. At around 6:18, the rhythm section breaks the steady time feel as Trane returns to the rubato opening theme. (+)
Track 2- "Wise One" Trane was deep, and he was the "wise one" in many ways." As with "Crescent," the song begins with of time statement. "Wise One" has a preaching quality. At around 3:00, Garrison and Jones settle into a quasi-Latin Groove, and McCoy Tyner offers a meditative chordal solo. The overall quality is serious and introspective. Coltrane takes over at around the 4:00 mark, and instead of releasing his "sheets of sound" concept, he plays long notes and clear phrases. He then builds the intensity before settling back down. The piece concludes with the out-of-time opening, similar to "Crescent." "Wise One" really showcases Trane’s direction leading into his next studio release, A Love Supreme (+)
Track 3- "Bessie's Blues" is a consolidated Coltrane standard 12-bar blues played over a medium swing feel. Tyner plays the first solo in his characteristic style, which includes his signature chordal approach of voicing chords to offer "fourth voices." At around 1:43, Trane enters with his improvisation with Tyner laying out. By not offering a harmonic sequence, Trane can explore more freely. Tyner returns for the melody as Trane presents a return to the central theme. Showcasing a standard blues after "Crescent" and "Wise One" is a change in direction and feel. The tune seems out of place and breaks the album's overall vibe. As impressive as he was playing in a free jazz context, it is essential to remember that Coltrane was a phenomenal player of standard material, blues, swing, ballads, and bebop numbers.
Track 1- "Lonnie's Lament" is one of Trane's most beautiful and celebrated ballads. Again the track begins with a looser rhythmic backdrop. This recording perfectly reflects the "new Coltrane" sound he had now fully established. At around 1:55, the time feels steadies as Tyner plays his most substantial solo on the record. Having a pianist with such a characteristic voice and style was indeed the partnership Coltrane needed at the time to advance his musical vision. Near the 6:00 minute mark, Jimmy Garrison is left alone to solo unaccompanied. Garrison was not necessarily the most gifted technical bassist, but his solos can be quite imaginative; this solo is a fine example. After the solo, Trane and the group return around 9:40 to reinstate the melody. Although the track is over ten minutes long, Trane does not solo during the cut. By giving up his solo spot, Trane's generosity allowed Tyner and Garrison to shine. (+).
Track 2- "The Drum Thing" is a drum feature for Elvin Jones, one of jazz's most gifted and imaginative drummers. The piece begins with Jones playing tom-tom rolls (maybe timpani)and grooves behind Coltrane's melodic reflections. The music takes on an almost African quality. At 2:40, Jones is left to his own devices and goes nuts on the kit. If you are a drummer or drum fanatic, you likely love the track; if not, you probably remove the needle from the record and put it back in its sleeve. Kudos to Coltrane for again sharing the spotlight on side two of "Crescent" with the sidemen who were so dedicated to helping Colktrane achieve his musical prophecies. For the final 1:30 minutes, Trane returns.
Crescent is an excellent reflection of the classic quartets' sound and approach at the time; while not equal to the brilliance of A Love Supreme (1965), it is a remarkable work and serves as a prequel to the classic 1965 album.