John Coltrane and Kamasi Washington releases usher in the summer of sax 

click to enlarge John Coltrane
  • John Coltrane
This summer is already shaping up to be a season of epic jazz recordings, thanks in large part to newly released albums by Kamasi Washington and the late John Coltrane.

Impossible though it may seem, Coltrane’s Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album (Impulse!) eclipses even his defining work, A Love Supreme. These recently unearthed 1963 Coltrane Quartet sessions were recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio and then inexplicably lost for 55 years. Yet they sound as fresh today as they must have when they were recorded. These seven tracks, which span 48 minutes, seem tailor-made for LP release, despite never having been mixed or sequenced. The 11-minute simmering “Slow Blues” is a standout, but the entire album is flawless, from the opening “Untitled Original 11383” to the “One Up, One Down” closer.

And then there’s the latest release from Washington, whose albums’ credits include work with Run the Jewels, Stanley Clarke and Kendrick Lamar. Washington made a big impression with his 2015 release The Epic, an appropriately titled four-LP set that combined an excess of conceptual flourish with a mellow and breathy tone resembling Coltrane’s. The artist’s talent for overstatement is unabated on Heaven and Earth (Young Turks), a conceptual work that spans more than 2½ hours, and that’s if you don’t count a 30-minute bonus EP of solo works. Epic, yes, but it’s hard not to appreciate the diversity of approaches throughout, from Patrice Quinn’s political vocals in the opening “Fists of Fury” to the alto and tenor sax tradeoffs in “Tiffakonkae.”

The tenor sax may or may not be making a comeback, but when it comes to these collections from Coltrane and Washington, do believe the hype.


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