Gary Giddins
July 19, 1991 AT 04:00 AM EDT

John Coltrane: Live In Japan

type
Music
Current Status
In Season
performer
John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders
Producers
GRP, Impulse!
genre
Jazz

We gave it an A-

Maybe you had to be there. In the ’60s, Coltrane and a handful of followers pushed the limits of jazz expressionism to its farthest reaches by performing half-hour improvisations without benefit of chords, melody lines, or regular rhythms. To some, the results are little more than noise; to others, especially people who recall the civil rights movement then taking place, such music suggested a new consciousness — or at least an emotionally devastating roaring of the soul. You could hardly ask for a better or more caustic (depending on your point of view) example than Live in Japan, a four-CD set, most of which has never previously been available here. The six selections, played by two saxophonists, Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, and a rhythm section, range from 25 to 57 minutes long, and there are moments when the heat they generate could melt glass. The big surprise for Coltrane hands is that he plays alto sax (instead of his usual tenor or soprano) on his signature theme, ”My Favorite Things.” Better fasten your seat belts for this one. A-

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