While it's been over fifty years since John Coltrane left this earth, he has still managed to stay as relevant as ever in our media-saturated times. I’m talking about his new — well, lost album — Both Directions At Once. The record is some kind of special. I’ve been listening to it like a man-possessed ever since it infiltrated my Spotify homepage last month.
Recorded in 1963 during Coltrane’s classic quartet period, the session was held at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in New Jersey while finishing up a two-week engagement at Birdland, the iconic Manhattan night spot. As Ravi Coltrane (John’s son) tells it: “This album, it’s right at a very interesting crossroads between the past and his soon to be future.”
The one-day session features the masters of the universe; Jimmy Garrison on double-bass, McCoy Tyner at the piano and Elvin Jones on drums. In the liner notes to Both Directions at Once, legendary saxophonist Sonny Rollins compares it to “finding a new room in the Great Pyramid.”
Like many young men with a passion for knowledge and a musical-palette that knew no bounds, I was obsessed with Jazz. Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, Red Garland, Miles Davis, Sonny Stitt — the list was infinite. I listened to these maestros everywhere and anywhere. It put a pep in my step, made me feel more than than the sum of my parts.
Recorded at the height of his powers, Both Directions At Once helps to remind me why Coltrane always stood a little taller than the rest. There is something undeniably raw about his sound; when Coltrane blows you feel it in your bones. Giant Steps, My Favourite Things, A Love Supreme... These are just a few of his records that I came back to time and again to nurse my sorrows and put a smile on my dial.
While he would only live to the tender age of forty, struck down by liver cancer only a few years following this recording, Coltrane left behind a legacy that reverberates today. Driven by an inner spirituality, you get the sense that his music was part of a higher calling. In the liner notes of A Love Supreme, Coltrane states that, in 1957, "I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music."
Take a listen to the lost album here. You can thank me later.