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John Coltrane: First Giant Steps

John Coltrane was already 29 when he took the first step toward fame and influence in the jazz world by joining the Miles Davis Quintet in 1955. There are relatively few examples of Trane’s playing before that year: He took a solo with Dizzy Gillespie on “We Love to Boogie” in 1951 and broadcasts from that year with Gillespie find Coltrane sounding a bit like Dexter Gordon. First Giant Steps (Rare Live) is from a different world altogether. In 1946, when he was a 20-year-old Navy man stationed in Hawaii, altoist John Coltrane made eight private recordings with a quintet led by trumpeter Dexter Culbertson, half of which feature the Nat “King” Cole-inspired vocals of Benny Thomas. These fascinating performances have now been released in full for the first time. Coltrane was clearly doing his best to sound like Charlie Parker while hinting at his own musical personality. Five of the eight songs are from Bird’s repertoire, including “Ko Ko,” “Hot House” and “Ornithology.” Also on this CD is a radio broadcast from 1954 that features Coltrane (on tenor) with the Johnny Hodges Septet. On “Castle Rock,” Coltrane honks and roars, showing what he must have sounded like while reluctantly “walking the bar” during his R&B days.

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