Thursday, June 30, 2011

John Coltrane - Stellar Regions

Stellar Regions is a posthumous release by John Coltrane, discovered in 1994 by the artist's wife, Alice Coltrane, who plays piano on the session. Alice Coltrane is responsible for the titles of the eight numbers on the album, although the material is not entirely previously unreleased: the same take of "Offering" was first issued on the Coltranes' final studio album, Expression; the song incorrectly retitled "Stellar Regions" here is in fact an early version of "Venus", first released in 1974 on the sax-drums duo album, Interstellar Space. Stellar Regions was recorded the week prior to the session that gave rise to that album, and features many similar note choices and runs; indeed, the "Venus" solo is also presaged here by portions of "Offering" and "Sun Star". The former song and also "Tranesonic" anticipate the fascination with polyrhythm and spare, duo arrangements that would dominate the Interstellar Space sessions.
The music features Rashied Ali on drums and Jimmy Garrison on bass. Several of the songs are remarkable for an almost European sense of tonality ("Jimmy's Mode") quite at odds with Coltrane's usual work in the blues idiom. Garrison's bass is often bowed, unusual for him and for Coltrane, and also lending an orchestral majesty to material like "Seraphic Light". There are a couple of blues-based and atonal numbers as well.
This is one of Coltrane's most accessible later albums. The numbers are brief and distinctly structured. But the fact that Coltrane did not title this material leaves in doubt how much of it he ultimately intended to release.
Some critics and musicians (including the British free jazz saxophonist Evan Parker, and Coltrane biographer Lewis Porter) have argued that Coltrane is playing an alto saxophone - something he did very rarely after 1946 - on both versions of the piece entitled "Tranesonic".

Released 1995
Recorded 15 February 1967
Label Impulse!
1."Seraphic Light" –8:54
2."Sun Star" –6:05
3."Stellar Regions" –3:31
4."Iris" –3:50
5."Offering" –8:20
6."Configuration" –4:01
7."Jimmy's Mode" –5:58
8."Tranesonic" –4:14
9."Stellar Regions" [alternate take] –4:37
10."Sun Star" [alternate take] –8:05
11."Tranesonic" [alternate take] –2:48

John Coltrane — tenor saxophone
Alice Coltrane — piano
Jimmy Garrison — bass
Rashied Ali — drums