Classic Album Profile: 'Blue Train' by John Coltrane

Courtesy of Blue Note

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John Coltrane's first solo album, 1957's Blue Train (Blue Note) is stunning not only because of the brilliant performances by Coltrane, trumpeter Lee Morgan, and trombonist Curtis Fuller, but because of the space it occupies in terms of Coltrane's development as an innovator, and of resulting advances in jazz.

Although soaked in the hard bop style that dominated the mid 1950s thanks to musicians such as Art Blakey, Max Roach, Clifford Brown, Freddie Hubbard, and Hank Mobley, Blue Train marks a departure from conventional bop harmonies.

The songs "Moment's Notice" and "Lazy Bird" make use of chord changes known as "Coltrane changes," which Coltrane further explored in his seminal 1959 album Giant Steps (Atlantic).

Coltrane changes involve the shifting of key centers by the interval of a major third. It is speculated that Coltrane was inspired to experiment with such a progression after working with Thelonious Monk's unusual approach to harmony, and also by Miles Davis' conception of modal jazz.

On Blue Train, Coltrane is on the verge of inhabiting his future musical persona, but is still firmly planted in hard bop. His combination of blues riffs, bebop lines, sheets of sound, and Coltrane changes crackles with volatile energy, as though each element were a reactive chemical.

Release Date:

1957 on Blue Note Records

Personnel:

  • John Coltrane - Tenor saxophone
  • Paul Chambers - double bass
  • Kenny Drew - piano
  • Curtis Fuller - trombone
  • Philly Joe Jones - drums
  • Lee Morgan - trumpet

Track List:

  1. Blue Train
  2. Moment's Notice
  3. Locomotion
  4. I'm Old Fashioned
  5. Lazy Bird

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