Friday, November 18, 2011

John Coltrane Quintet featuring Eric Dolphy - Olympia Theatre, Paris, France - Nov. 18, 1961

There were two shows, 6:30 and 10:30, for the opening night of John Coltrane's Fall 1961 tour of Europe. The band was:

John Coltrane - tenor and soprano saxophone
Eric Dolphy - alto saxophone, bass clarinet and flute
McCoy Tyner - piano
Reggie Workman - bass
Elvin Jones - drums

The 6:30 set was:
1. Impressions
2. I Want to Talk About You
3. Blue Train
4. My Favorite Things

And 10:30
1. I Want To Talk About You
2. Blue Train
3. My Favorite Things

There are many enthusiastic reviews of these sets to be found but things don't really take off in the early show until "Blue Train", which features some tremendous Coltrane and Dolphy soloing. The version of "My Favorite Things" that closes the set is pretty uptempo, tight and intense. Coltrane's initial turn, on soprano, rips - and is capped with an enthusiastic outburst from the audience - before giving way to McCoy Tyner at about the 3:30 mark. This Tyner solo is easily the highlight of the show so far. Bluesy, lyrical and brushing against the outer reaches of the scale, he switches themes a couple of times for an epic improvisation clocking in at around eight minutes. Nothing short of stunning.

Surprisingly, the relatively straightforward "I Want To Talk About You" might be the winner from the late show. Lots of bluesy melody and concision in the solos, though it must be said that the roar that greets the start of Tyner's solo during this set's "My Favorite Things" suggests the crowd thought otherwise. Could it be they remember the monster take he laid down in the early show..? This version grooves a little slower and Tyner takes just enough off the speed while compensating with force and swing. Reggie Workman adds a few pretty bass lines beneath the proceedings as well. The real surprise is a lengthy flute solo from Dolphy followed by a soaring Coltrane turn propelled by Elvin Jones.

The music from both of these sets is slightly more refined than the music from the Village Vanguard less than two weeks earlier. Perhaps it is the larger venue or the more receptive audience, but the music is less aggressive while maintaining its sense of adventure. Twelve more cities to visit across the tour...

This show was widely bootlegged on sets from Jazzway and Magnetic Records. A torrent of the Magnetic version is available here.