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Rediscovered Village Gate Performances by John Coltrane’s 1961 Quintet
In August of 1961, the John Coltrane Quintet played an engagement at the legendary Village Gate in Greenwich Village, New York. Eighty minutes of never-before-heard music from this group was recently discovered at the New York Public Library. The recordings were made by engineer Rich Alderson as part of a test of the Village Gate’s then-new sound system. The tapes seemed to have been lost, were found, but then disappeared again into Library’s vast sound archives.
Coltrane played his month-long Village Gate residency with a quintet featuring a revolving cast of musicians. The new album comprises 80 minutes of unheard music and provides a glimpse into the powerful but sadly all-too-short musical partnership between Coltrane and Eric Dolphy, who died three years later. This is the only recording of their vaunted Village Gate performances and features Coltrane staples such as “My Favorite Things,” “Impressions,” and “Greensleeves,” along with a remarkable spotlight feature for Dolphy’s bass clarinet on “When Lights Are Low.” The release also offers the only known non-studio recording of Coltrane’s composition “Africa,” with bassist Art Davis.
Coltrane and Dolphy first met in Los Angeles, renewing their friendship when Dolphy moved to New York in 1959. Recognizing the analytic and driving qualities they shared, they became kindred spirits, coming of age at the height of bebop with a mutual interest in harmony, emotive expression, and vocal-like effects and a wide emotional range in their playing. The Village Gate recordings accentuate the signature sounds of the two masters, Dolphy’s bright and sharply voice set against Coltrane’s darker and slurred phrasing.