JOHN COLTRANE-BOTH DIRECTIONS AT ONCE: THE LOST ALBUM. 

John Coltrane-Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album.

Label: Impulse!

As John Coltrane and his classic quartet arrived at the Van Gelder studios in Englewood Cliffs, on the ‘6th’ of March 1963, the band were in good spirits having played a barnstorming set at Birdland the night before. It was one of the best sets that the quartet that had been together since 1962 had played, and this set them up nicely to record a new album with Rudy Van Gelder, which would be released by Impulse later in 1963.

When John Coltrane arrived at the studio, he unpacked his tenor and soprano saxophone, and watched drummer as Elvin Jones, double bassist Jimmy Garrison and pianist McCoy Tyner prepared for the session. The rest of the quartet featured experienced musicians and it was just another day at the office for the John Coltrane quartet. Soon, they were ready to roll and make some music.

Bandleader John Coltrane planned to record an entire album during the session, which was something he had done many times before, and so had the other members of the quartet.This time, John Coltrane planned to record an album that featured mostly his own compositions. He had written Slow Blues, One Up, One Down and Villa which was based on Franz Lehár’s Vilja Song from The Merry Widow. John Coltrane planned to revisit another of his compositions Impressions, and had decided to cover Nature Boy. However, John Coltrane knew from experience that anything could happen when he was recording an album.

Buoyed by their performance at Birdland the night before, John Coltrane and his quartet recorded a total of fourteen tracks at the Van Gelder studios. At the end of the session, Rudy Van Gelder made a separate copy of the quarter-inch reference tapes for John Coltrane to listen at home.

After John Coltrane had listened to the sessions, he gave the tape to his first wife Juanita Naima to look after. This was just as well in light of what happened.

Despite having recorded enough material for a new album, Impulse never released the album. For some reason, neither Bob Thiele who ran Impulse, nor Rudy Van Gelder lobbied for the release of the new John Coltrane album. This meant that the master tapes languished in the Impulse vaults. What happened to the tapes after this is unknown, and there’s several possibilities. 

It may be that it was a case of human error, and the master-tape were misplaced, or that someone recorded over John Coltrane’s album. There’s even the possibility that when executives at Impulse decided to save on storage space, the tapes of the sessions on the ‘6th’ of March 1963 were thrown out or destroyed. A more likely explanation is that when Impulse’s parent label ABC-Paramount moved to Los Angeles that was when the tapes were lost somewhere between New York and LA.  The other possibility is that when ABC-Paramount was purchased by MCA in 1979, that that is when the master-tapes were lost. 

Sadly, by 1979 John Coltrane it was nearly twelve years since the legendary saxophonist had passed away on July the ’17th’ 1967. Sadly, nobody seemed to be lobbying for the release of the lost Impulse album. Not even Bob Thiele who left ABC-Paramount and founded his own label Flying Dutchman Records. It seemed that everyone had forgotten the album that the classic lineup of the John Coltrane quartet had recorded on the ‘6th’ of March 1963.

Meanwhile, the quarter-inch reference tapes that Rudy Van Gelder had made for John Coltrane was still in the possession of his first wife Juanita Naima. She looked after the tapes for forty-three years, until her death in 1996. After that, the tapes disappeared for another nine years.

Nothing more was heard of the tapes until 2005, when Guernsey’s auction house in New York announced that they planned to sell a selection of John Coltrane artefacts. This included the copy of the quarter-inch reference tapes that Rudy Van Gelder made of the session on  ‘6th’ of March 1963, for John Coltrane to listen to at home. Although this wasn’t the original master tape, at last it would be possible to hear John Coltrane’s lost album.

It was no surprise to music industry insiders when the record company contacted Guernsey’s auction house to prevent the sale of the tapes, and then acquired them. This would allow them to release the tapes containing John Coltrane’s lost album.

Many within the music thought that it wouldn’t be long before the tapes were released in their entirety. Just like the rest of the story of John Coltrane’s lost album, there was a twist in the tale and it was thirteen long years before Impulse released Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album. 

John Coltrane’s son Ravi Coltrane compiled Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album with studio executive Ken Druker. The sleeve notes were written by saxophonist Sonny Rollins who was a friend of John Coltrane. However, given the importance of Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album, two different versions of the album were released on LP and CD. There was the standard edition and the deluxe edition of Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album.

The deluxe edition of Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album was a double album, and the first featured the album that had been missing for fifty-five years. Seven bonus tracks featured on the second disc, including three takes of Impressions, two takes of Untitled Original 11386 and versions of Villa and One Up, One Down. Listening to Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album was like stepping back in time.

Indeed, when John Coltrane recorded Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album, the saxophonist was at a crossroads in his career. He felt constrained by traditional song structure, and was already contemplating moving in the direction of free jazz. This made sense as John Coltrane was a talented improviser who was keen to move beyond song shapes and chords and embrace a freer style of music. It was against this backdrop that John Coltrane recorded what eventually became Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album.

It opened with Untitled Original 11383 (Take 1) where John Coltrane plays soprano saxophone on the Latin-tinged minor key example of swinging modal jazz.  John Coltrane then switches to tenor saxophone on the minor-key Nature Boy, which sometimes seems to hint at Summertime and It Was A Very Good Year as ‘Trane plays with power and passion. Meanwhile, the arrangement veers between dark and sombre before becoming melodic and joyous as it dances along.  After this, the quartet lightens the mood on the Untitled Original 11386 (Take 1) which is like a Bossa Nova on steroids. Playing a starring role is ‘Trane’s saxophone which wails and squeals as he plays with speed and power as the quartet reach new heights. It gives way to the ballad Villa which is full of longing as pianist McCoy Tyner plays a melodic and memorable solo. So too is John Coltrane’s playing on Impressions (Take 3) as he plays with speed, fluidity, freedom and invention. In doing so, his band raise their game and match ‘Trane every step of the way.

It’s all change on Slow Blues which has a much more understated arrangement which allows John Coltrane’s to take centre-stage. he plays with control looking back at his past, rather than to the future when he embraced free jazz. Closing Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album is One Up, One Down (Take 1) which bursts into life and features triadic chords aplenty during this fearless, fluid and emotionally charged performance from the classic quartet who close this lost album on a high 

For fifty-five years after the classic lineup of John Coltrane’s quartet recorded Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album, the album was belatedly released by Impulse. At long last, this revered lost album was available for all to hear. The big question was would Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album be as good as many critics and jazz fans had hoped?

It was and much more. Listening to Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album was like taking a step back in time to Van Gelder studios in Englewood Cliffs, on the ‘6th’ of March 1963. Suddenly, the listener is in the studio as the classic quartet plays as Rudy Van Gelder runs the session. Meanwhile, John Coltrane who is at a crossroads in his career combines elements of his past with his future as he and jazz music evolved. 

John Coltrane continued with his classic quartet up until 1965, with the classic album A Love Supreme proving to be one of the their finest albums. Indeed, many critics regard A Love Supreme as John Coltrane masterpiece and a jazz classic. However, after releasing A Love Supreme, John Coltrane changed direction for the last two years of his life.

He moved towards a much looser, free jazz style from 1966s Ascension onwards. This included his avant-garde album Meditation which features Pharaoh Saunders, and is seen as John Coltrane’s spiritual followup to his Magnus Opus A Love Supreme. John Coltrane and his band continued to move in the direction of free jazz on the followup Live at the Village Vanguard Again! which was released in December 1966. The final album released during John Coltrane’s lifetime was Kulu Sé Mama  which was released in January 1967 and was an album of free jazz recorded in 1965. 

Sadly, John Coltrane passed away on July the ’17th’ 1967 aged just forty. That day, jazz music lost one of its greatest saxophonists who left behind a rich musical legacy including Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album, which was belatedly released after being missing for fifty-five years and is a reminder of one of jazz’s legends at his innovative best.

John Coltrane-Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album.

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