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DVD Review: ‘Jazz Icons 5’ Boxed Set

Coltrane, Blakey, Hubbard, Monk, Kirk and Griffin in sizzling historic performances

Freddie Hubbard
Johnny Griffin
John Coltrane [photo credit: Roy Thompson]
Art Blakey
Jazz Icons 5

By contemporary standards, the film of John Coltrane performing at the Antibes Jazz Festival in France in July 1965 is subpar: black and white, slightly out of focus, amateurish camera angles. The average kid toying with his smartphone can post a higher quality video on YouTube.

But the hell with contemporary standards. What jazz fan would not be riveted by Coltrane and his classic quartet-Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Garrison-in their only known public performance of “A Love Supreme,” Coltrane’s masterpiece? Before they get to it-the group saved the suite for last-the quartet is already on fire, offering thrilling run-throughs of “Naima,” “Ascension” and “Impressions,” three pieces that show how far they’d traveled in their five years together. Coltrane, eyes shut and seemingly possessed, his body rocking back and forth, is in the zone, reaching upward and outward, leaving convention far behind. In an extended sequence during “Ascension,” the camera darts from close-ups of Coltrane’s sweaty, pained face to his hands, his fingers a blur as his solo accelerates. Although we only catch the occasional glimpse of the others in the band-thankfully, the cameras do allow us to watch Garrison’s spellbinding arco intro to “Impressions”-they are right there with him all along.

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