There’s a new John Coltrane album out today, 55 years after its recording and 51 years after the legendary saxophonist’s death. It’s a remarkable turn of events. Remarkably exciting, too — especially, I imagine, for those who’ve immersed theirselves in every corner of his catalog.
For those of us who are more on the, um, ignorant side when it comes to jazz, Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album is still a reason to celebrate. I’m no Coltrane scholar, but this music leapt out at me with life and immediacy this morning. I could easily imagine it functioning as a backdoor gateway into Coltrane’s catalog.
The entirety of Both Directions At Once was recorded at Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey in a single session on March 6, 1963. The next day, Coltrane and his band returned to the same studio to cut John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman. This was all in the midst of a two-week run at New York jazz club Birdland, but the crazy busyness only seems to have sharpened the band’s synchronicity. Coltrane’s son Ravi, who co-produced this project, said it documents “a kicking-the-tires kind of session,” but to these ears Coltrane and company sound inspired and on point.
Both Directions At Once features unheard recordings of some Coltrane staples such as “Impressions,” “Nature Boy,” and “Vilia” as well as completely new material. Two of the tracks, “11383” and “11386,” are known only by their master numbers. There’s also “Slow Blues” and what may be an early version of “One Down, One Up.” On the two-disc deluxe version, streaming below, many of these tunes are presented two or even three times. Listen closely and see if you can spot the creative decisions that set each take apart — or just bask in the privilege of fresh Coltrane recordings turning up more than five decades later.
Both Directions At Once is out now on Impulse! Records. Purchase it here.