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John Coltrane: The Ultimate Blue Train

The Ultimate Blue Train, the Enhanced CD edition of the classic John Coltrane album, pretty much lives up to its name. The 20-bit Super Bit Mapping is no hype; the sound is noticeably better than on the album’s previous incarnations. Previously unreleased takes of “Lazy Bird” and the title tune significantly flesh out the record of this historic session; in fact, it’s the piano solo on the alternate of “Blue Train” that was edited into the master (unfortunately, the excised Kenny Drew solo is lost). Originally produced for Microsoft’s Encarta Encyclopedia, the well-designed interactive portion of the disc (which is wallpapered with Francis Wolff photos from the rehearsal and the session) includes occasionally poignant reflections by trombonist Curtis Fuller and engineer Rudy van Gelder (the session’s only survivors), substantive interviews with musicians ranging from Kenny Burrell to John Tchicai, a video of “So What” from the ’59 television show, The Sound Of Miles Davis, and a Coltrane-on-Blue-Note discography sprinkled with audio clips. If you have the recommended hardware, peripherals and system software for either PCs or Macs, the disc’s interactive elements are hitchless, but Performa users will probably need tech support.

Originally Published