Like Parker, Ellington, Davis and Armstrong, Coltrane is a name that requires no forename prefix to identify its owner as one of the greatest of all jazz icons. It's also a names that instantly conjures a sound: spearing, questing, earnest, deep and intense, that of a man who, in a recorded career of around a dozen years transformed not only his own music but much of the jazz landscape around him. His death, aged 41 in 1967, left an aching chasm at the heart of an art form and nearly fifty years after his passing his legacy continues to inform much of what is thought of as innovative within contemporary jazz. Even more unbelievably, a staggering nine decades have passed since the birth of this still controversial figure, a man whose music continues to generate passionate debate both for and against. Was Coltrane really the last true jazz innovator? Or did he, as some maintain, unhinge a Pandora's Box that has since proved impossible to close, resulting in a fragmentary collapse of the idiom?
One thing remains certain: that his recorded legacy contains some of the most talked about, widely influential and best-known performances ever made under the banner of jazz improvisation. Coltrane transformed it all: Broadway ballads, blues, bop, borrowings from other musical cultures (India, Africa), each pushed through the prism of his ever-curious genius. Coltrane: 90 presents a four-disc anthology charting his journey from sideman to star, covering his seminal work with leaders including Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, through his “horn for hire” phase as one of New York's hottest new jazz talents, in which he recorded with everyone from fellow tenor Sonny Rollins to avant-garde gurus Cecil Taylor and George Russell, onto the formation of his own quartet, a unit that was to change both the pace and the face of jazz. Classic Coltrane performances such as Moment's Notice, Giant Steps, Naima and Chasin' The Trane are included, as are his scene stealing solos on tracks with Miles Davis (So What) and Thelonious Monk ( Trinkle Tinkle). However, this package is much more than a “greatest hits” writ-large. Complete with a major new essay on Coltrane by saxophonist and author Simon Spillett, period photographs and a bonus disc of live material tracing Coltrane's career back to his early work with Dizzy Gillespie and Johnny Hodges, it provides the ultimate opportunity to witness Coltrane building his own legend, step by step. Happy Birthday John Coltrane!