Lost John Coltrane Album Resurfaces

Impulse! to release March ’63 session as "Both Directions at Once" on June 29

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John Coltrane (photo by Esmond Edwards)

On March 6, 1963, the day before John Coltrane recorded his classic album of ballads with singer Johnny Hartman, the saxophonist entered Rudy Van Gelder’s recording studio in New Jersey to lay down tracks of a very different sort. He and the rest of his quartet—pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Elvin Jones—cut multiple takes of seven compositions, which presented a far truer picture of the band’s legendary live intensity than the Hartman album. Several of the tunes were unnamed; one was later titled “Impressions,” while two others were never released in any form and, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, never recorded again.

For decades, all seven of these tracks went unheard, until Coltrane’s own copy of the recordings was found recently in the possession of the family of his first wife, Juanita Naima Coltrane. Now Impulse! Records is set to release them on June 29 under the title Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album.

The album will be available in two versions: a single disc featuring one take each of the seven tracks and a deluxe edition that adds seven alternate takes, including three versions of “Impressions.” This was the second time that Coltrane had attempted to capture the latter tune in the studio; in the end, he and producer Bob Thiele opted instead to include a 1961 live rendition of the piece on the Impressions album, released a few months after the Both Directions at Once session.

Saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, John Coltrane’s son, who helped prepare the new album for release, told Giovanni Russonello of the New York Times, “In 1963, all these musicians are reaching some of the heights of their musical powers. On this record, you do get a sense of John with one foot in the past and one foot headed toward his future.”

Look for an in-depth article on the history and music of Both Directions at Once in the September issue of JazzTimes.

Read a vintage JazzTimes feature about the making of John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman.