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Complete Live at the Five Spot 1958


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  • Even before the first note is played, the apocrypha proclaiming this to be a non-professional recording -- which finds Naima Coltrane (John Coltrane's wife) as "audio engineer" -- is fortunately true. The raw nature of the contents accurately reveal the reality of experiencing a Five Spot gig during the venerable venue's halcyon days. What can also be found beyond the sporadic chatter and general hubbub of a New York City Harlem nightclub is arguably the strongest aural evidence of the unique working rapport these jazz icons shared. While the relationship between Monk and Coltrane is the crux of these performances, Ahmed Abdul-Malik (bass) and the irrepressible Roy Haynes (drums) also contribute mightily by allowing enough context to support the soloist while pulling out occasional solos of their own. Haynes' interjections to "In Walked Bud" and "I Mean You" go beyond the simple progression of rhythm. While the perspective of this recording is somewhat unfavorable to Coltrane, there is no mistaking the intense activity of his tenor sax. His solo during "I Mean You" is particularly potent, as he somehow finds room to incorporate a well-placed line or two from a popular show tune (no surprises spoiled here for potential enthusiasts eager for a good sonic hide and seek). The rendition of "Crepuscule with Nellie" -- which is joined in progress, although only by a few bars -- best personifies both the character of this audience recording and the ability for the music's sublime nature to filter those distractions away. This combo's residency at the Five Spot during the summer of 1958 coincides with other notable live sets cut during this time, including Thelonious in Action and its counterpart, Misterioso. These two are professionally documented releases that capture much of the same verve, although they sadly lack Coltrane. ~ Lindsay Planer
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