When the CD reissues boom first started, Fantasy released a whopping 12-CD set of all of John Coltrane's recordings for Prestige Records.
Last year, Prestige began a new series of boxes trying to chip down that megalith into affordable and digestible chunks. The first set, the six-CD "Fearless Leader," assembled all of the tracks Trane recorded as a band leader for the label.
The new "Interplay," also co-produced by Milwaukee native Cheryl Pawelski, who has since left the label to head up Rhino's A&R department, unites the sessions from 1956 to '58 that Coltrane participated in (but at which he was not the leader) for Prestige and subsidiaries like New Jazz.
We find Coltrane working alongside pianists Red Garland and Tommy Flanagan, fellow tenor Hank Mobley, guitarist Kenny Burrell, bassist Paul Chambers and others. This was the Coltrane that was still on the path to his distinctive styles, learning from and feeding off of some of jazz's best musicians.
Often we think of the recordings on which Trane was the sole horn voice and that makes "Interplay" interesting. Here, he has to make his statements and explore his paths while working in ensembles with Mobley and other tenors like Charlie Rouse and Paul Quinichette and with baritone players Cecil Payne and Pepper Adams, alto Jackie McLean, trumpeters Donald Byrd and Idrees Sulieman and flautist Frank Wess, to name a few.
The thick booklet features essays by Nat Hentoff and Lewis Porter, session details, an annotated discography (with the original LP liner notes), great photos and more.
The material here is nothing new, but its thematic presentation is thought-provoking and wonderful. You could buy the big box and be done with it; and hear everything in order. Or, you could bite off these themed sets as they arrive, spend some time with them and gain new insight into one of the top musical talents of the 20th century.
In related news: The Long Island home of Coltrane and his wife, Alice, was added to both the New York State and the National Register of Historic Places last week. The Dix Hills home was home to the Coltrane family from 1964-'73 and it was where Coltrane composed "A Love Supreme."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.