03 Coltrane VillageGateEvenings at the Village Gate
John Coltrane with Eric Dolphy
Impulse BOO3784-02 (impulserecords.com)

One of the avatars in the transition to free jazz, multi-reedist Eric Dolphy died tragically at 36 in 1964. Besides his solo records, collaborations with Charles Mingus and John Coltrane are particularly prized. This hitherto unknown live date adds another significant session to the mere four discs available from Coltrane/Dolphy groups.

Recorded without forethought in 1961 to test a new mike with the New York club’s sound system, this CD captures a typical set including Coltrane’s ostensible hit My Favourite Things, all featuring extensive improvising. The disc is doubly relevant since the configuration – Coltrane on tenor/soprano saxophones, pianist McCoy Tyner, drummer Elvin Jones and both Art Davis and Reggie Workman on basses – was rarely recorded.

Although the bassists with powerful rhythmic pumps and strums and Jones’ distinctive splatter and pops are featured on the extended Africa, crucially it’s Dolphy who gets protracted solo space. Whether its sax triple tonguing and spetrofluctuation on Africa, looping chalumeau bass clarinet patterns on Greensleeves or squealing skyscraper peeps on Favourite Things, Dolphy usually solos first. Coltrane follows with characteristic multiphonics, intense treble soprano saxophone runs, and with Tyner’s astute comping and tune elaboration and obbligatos from Dolphy, always states and restates the tunes’ characteristic vamps and head. 

Adding up its virtues, Evenings At The Village Gate is striking because it presents different, longer versions of Coltrane group classics, features a rarely recorded ensemble and most importantly, captures more precious instances of Dolphy’s ever-evolving skills.

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