Monday, January 09, 2012

John Coltrane Quintet Featuring Eric Dolphy - Kulttuuritalo, Helsinki, Finland, Nov. 22, 1961

Kulttuuritalo in Helsinki was designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. Itself a work of art, the 1958 building has hosted all manner of classical, jazz, pop and rock events over the years.

On this night, Kulttuuritalo staged the seventh set in five days of John Coltrane's 1961 European tour with Eric Dolphy.

There is a private tape that circulates of this show, often labeled as "second" or "9:15" show, though there are no documents mentioning an early show. Regardless, numerous sources cite this recording as having been made by Yles Radio in Finland. The show has never seen official release.

"Blue Train" and "I Want To Talk About You", which open the set, are two of the lesser-played songs on this tour. In fact, it is not clear that "I Want To Talk About You" was performed again on the run. Coltrane's performances of the song did not include Dolphy and given how crucial he was to the music they were making in Europe, it is not surprising to find the song dropped from the repertoire. The "Blue Train" here features some strong McCoy Tyner soloing.

"Impressions" and "My Favorite Things", of course, are staples for this period and the versions here are of the typical high standard. Both feature intense soloing from the horn players. As is often the case with "Impressions", the drum work from Elvin Jones and Reggie Workman's bass propel the horn men to repeated peaks. Dolphy contributes a mellow but intricate flute solo to the 20-minute "My Favorite Things".

There is a certain restraint or low-key nature overall to this show. The music is not as dense as some of the other performances by this particular line-up. This is not criticism. Instead, just one more example of how much musical diversity could be mined from a songbook as small as that carried by this band.