everybodydigs#107 John Coltrane – Black Pearls


everybodydigs# is a series of posts about Jazz, Funk, Soul & R’n’b albums released from the 20s to the 90s, you can read a brief description/review and listen to a small preview (when it’s possible). everybodydigs# is like when someone tells you “hey you should listen to this album!” and nothing less, enjoy!

Originally released in May 1958, Black Pearls was a major step forward in the career of tenor saxophonist John Coltrane. Though Coltrane was already known as a fine soloist, mainly due to his association with Thelonious Monk’s quartet, Black Pearls proved that the saxophonist could also be a creative innovator. This dense, harmonically complex trio of compositions begins with the title track, a minor-mode but sprightly affair from the team of Romberg-Hammerstein. “Black Pearls” benefits from “the Coltrane changes”, chords that modulate every two beats instead of every one or two bars. His flurry of 16th notes is complemented by his use of substitutions, the practice of replacing common chords with complex chords consisting of higher intervals. In taking this practice to the extreme, the soloist fashioned a playing style referred to as “sheets of sound”. The same songwriting team returns in “Lover Come Back to Me”, which features an especially prescient Donald Byrd, who wields his trumpet with both fury and discipline. The final track is Robert Weinstock’s “Sweet Sapphire Blues”, a themeless, A-major excursion dominated by pianist Red Garland. Using the full range of the piano, Garland demonstrates his grasp of a number of performance styles within the 18-minute opus. Coltrane joins in with solo runs containing a multitude of melodies and rhythms, while drummer Art Taylor does more than simply keep time. The casual poise of Black Pearls is one of the album’s many pleasures, as is Coltrane’s democracy in allowing each member of his quintet to shine. An underrated, solid studio gem.

Personnel: John Coltrane (tenor saxophone); Donald Byrd (trumpet); Red Garland (piano); Paul Chambers (bass); Art Taylor (drums).

Rappamelo’s favorite track:


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