By Jack Sharkey, July 27, 2018

 

5 Play Buttons

5 Play Buttons

  

In an age of remastered classics, B-sides, alternate takes, unreleased rarities and the like from artists from the classic ages of rock and roll and jazz, Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album is an amazing treat for aficionados and new-comers alike. Jazz pioneer and icon John Coltrane died in 1967 during a period where he was experimenting with atonal and free-form jazz as the denouement to a career that had helped define be-bop and modern American jazz. Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album is a unique treasure – it captures Coltrane’s quartet – McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones – at the height of their power as they take jazz standards such as Nature Boy into uncharted territory. It is also a look at where Coltrane was heading, but above all – it'is a great jazz album by one of this country’s legendary musicians – and we’ve never heard any of it before!

 

The recording is crisp and clean – as was expected from music recorded at Rudy Van Geller’s legendary Englewood Cliffs, NJ, recording Coltranestudio. The velvety bow of Jimmy Garrison’s double-bass is worth the listen alone. But the depth of Coltrane’s sax and the taut immediacy of Elvin Jones’ wonderful snare work are captured in all their chill-inducing glory. Maybe this was an album that was never intended for release, but regardless of the plan for the tracks, for reasons lost to history it languished in the basement of the Queens, NY home he shared with his wife Naima for fifty-four years. The music world is better off now that this music is available to us.

 

On March 6, 1963, Coltrane and his band took the quick trip over to Englewood Cliffs, NJ, and spent the day rehearsing and arranging before finally cutting the fourteen tracks found on the album. Coltrane was in the middle of his milestone run at Birdland and had a session booked on March 7 to record the successful Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane album. Whether Both Directions was originally meant as a rehearsal for those sessions (that seems unlikely) or the tapes just got forgotten about (also unlikely) is unknown. It may make more sense that in the hectic peak of his career, by the time Coltrane got around to revisiting these tracks for release he had moved on from them. Based on where Coltrane would take his music in the next three years, this seems as plausible (although kind of boring) as any other reason the tracks were left behind.   

 

Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album is a timeless snapshot of a group of stellar musicians playing a style of music that paved the way for so much of the music – in so many different genres – to come. It’s fresh, urgent, and altogether the kind of record that instantly becomes a classic. The production and mastering is superb. It’s available on Tidal (I Iistened to the MQA stream), Spotify or for you purists out there, vinyl and CD. Click the picture above-right to purchase the album from HDTracks.

 

The best part about being a music fan in this day and age is sometimes real treasures pop-up out of nowhere and with absolutely minimal effort it’s all right there for your taking. If you’re a jazz fan or just kind of curious about the Golden Age of the genre, take some time and get lost in the world on New York jazz at the peak of its power.