John Coltrane
Live At Birdland



by matt_drummist USER (6 Reviews)
May 9th, 2005 | 6 replies

Release Date: 1963 | Tracklist

This is one of my very favorite Trane records—definitely in my top 5. Recorded in late 1963, this record (which is actually half live and half studio) finds Trane just coming out of his "ballads" period and becoming more explorative, leaning more towards his 1961 explorations. This is truly one of his best and consistenly wonderful recordings.

All the music here is great, whether recorded live at Birdland or in the studio. The live pieces ("Afro Blue," "I Want To Talk About You," and "The Promise" ) are all very powerful. To me, perhaps the highlight of "Afro Blue" is the drumming of Elvin Jones. Throughout the tune it is often difficult to hear him keeping a steady beat, but you know it's there—you can feel it. Elvin's powerful, free yet steady support pushes the rest of the group to play at an extremely high level as well. "I Want To Talk About You" features a stellar unaccompanied Coltrane solo. This is some of the best sax work you will ever hear in your life. Trane stretches way out without abandoning the melody of the tune, something that is extremely hard to do. He does it gracefully and beautifully.

The rest of the material here is equally great, but I believe that "Alabama" stands out. It is a Coltrane original crafted from a Martin Luther King Jr speech. This song was written after the Alabama church bombings and it is literally a prayer. To some it may seem very laid back, but to me it is quite the contrary: intense, smoldering, and spiritual. The haunting melody pours out of John's saxophone on top of a deep drone played by McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Garrison, while Elvin adds some dark color on the drums. It's sort of a precursor to "Psalm" from A Love Supreme.

The only thing I don't like about this CD reissue is the bonus track "Vilia." Sure, I'm always happy to hear new music from this group, but "Your Lady" is such a perfect ending to this album and "Vilia" almost ruins the mood. This is not to say it isn't good; it just doesn't fit in here, despite it being from the same session.

If you love John Coltrane, or just like him a little bit, you will instantly fall in love with this album, just as I did. This is a record for fans of Trane's early and late periods alike. Any true lover of jazz will appreciate this beautiful music.

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user ratings (52)

Comments:Add a Comment 
September 5th 2005


I would love to hear how "Afro Blue" sounds live, but it's kind of scary to invest in a live-jazz album when there is so much more studio-recorded jazz albums to pick up.

September 22nd 2005


Live jazz albums are better than studio records a lot of times. Sure, the sound quality isn't pristine studio-level, but it's the feeling of the music that counts. A lot of people consider Live At Birdland one of Coltrane's best records (including studio recordings). Trust me, it's worth it.

January 1st 2007


This album is good needless to say (It's Coltrane live for god sake) But inferior to One Down One Up: Live at the Half Note, Live in Japan, and Live at the Antibes Jazz Festival.

The 39 minute (theres not even a bass solo (!)) version of Afro Blue on Live in Japan is mind blowing and orgasmic. As to where this version is just really really good.

But yeah, this album is really good, I just wish the songs were longer with more time to develop.

January 10th 2007


Those albums are spectacular as well, but it's kind of weird to compare this to them. This was from 1963; the group hadn't even recorded A Love Supreme yet. They were still developing as a band and the music was quite straight until 1965. It kind of sucks that vinyl was so limiting; the band always had to know when they were being recorded, otherwise they probably would have stretched out a lot more. But yeah, Live In Japan is amazing. It's a little tedious at first but it really grows on you (at least me). If you like Rashied Ali then you should dive into the European free jazz scene... Peter Brotzmann, Han Bennink, Alexander von Schlippenbach, etc... WOW

September 3rd 2011


Album Rating: 5.0

The saxophone on Afro Blue made me feel like I was in heaven.

Digging: Mineral - The Power of Failing

January 29th 2012


Album Rating: 5.0

John Coltrane was magic.

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