John Coltrane - Interstellar Space

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2021 Japanese CD reissue.

In early 1967, when drummer Rashied Ali entered the Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, for his latest session with John Coltrane, he was surprised to find the rest of the saxophonist’s band absent. “I went in there, and I was setting up, and I didn’t see Jimmy [Garrison], I didn’t see Alice [Coltrane]; I didn’t see nobody else,” Ali recalled in 2003. “I was like, ‘Where’s everybody else?’ and [John] said, ‘It’s just going to be you and me.'”

What resulted was a series of nakedly spiritual, often harshly ecstatic free-form duets between Coltrane’s tenor saxophone and Ali’s drums, each based only on a brief theme and most bookended by Coltrane’s ritualistic ringing of sleigh bells. The session, held on February 22nd, 1967, was among Coltrane’s last before his death from liver cancer that July. The tapes sat unreleased until the fall of 1974 when four of the pieces – “Mars,” “Venus,” “Jupiter” and “Saturn” – came out under the title of Interstellar Space. Reviewing the album for Rolling Stone, Stephen Davis called it “plainly astonishing” and likened the musicians’ interplay to “a two-man vulcanism.”

The album’s unconventional sax/drums format wasn’t entirely new for Coltrane. Though he typically favored a full rhythm section of piano, bass and drums, he had often engaged Ali’s hard-swinging predecessor, Elvin Jones, in epic live duos within quartet performances; and in 1965, the pair recorded a single studio duet, “Vigil.” But thanks to the album-length format and Ali’s radical playing style – honed through several years of work both with Coltrane’s bands and, according to the drummer, in earlier, undocumented duos with saxophonists such as Archie Shepp – Interstellar Space was something very different. Throughout the album, Ali largely jettisons traditional timekeeping in favor of an exhilarating abstract propulsion. His approach inspires some of Coltrane’s most frenzied yet focused playing on record, full of dizzying runs, piercing cries and breathtaking melodic invention. “I can really choose just about any direction at just about any time in the confidence that it will be compatible with what he’s doing,” Coltrane once said of playing over Ali’s tumbling rhythmic torrent.


SKU 4988031448755
Barcode # 4988031448755
Brand Impulse Records / Universal Japan

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