Duke Ellington & John Coltrane

Studio album by Duke Ellington and John Coltrane
Released February 1963

Duke Ellington & John Coltrane is a jazz album by Duke Ellington and John Coltrane recorded on September 26, 1962, and released in February 1963 on Impulse! Records.

During the final decade and a half of Duke Ellington’s life, he become more and more creatively productive. One of the key elements of this was showcasing the progression of his own personal compositional stamp-evolving elements of it to adapt to the new sounds of the decade in which he was creating.

Part of this involved willing collaborations with some of the newest musical innovators in jazz. And few were making more abrupt innovations in their instrumental approach to playing in the early 60’s than John Coltrane.

This album was one of Ellington’s many collaborations in the early 1960s with musicians such as Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Max Roach, and Charles Mingus, and placed him with a quartet, rather than a big band. The quartet was filled out by the bassist and drummer from either of their bands.

With Elvin Jones and Sam Woodyard doubling up on drums with Jimmy Garrison and Aaron Bell doing the same on bass this album proved that Ellington’s interest in recording with Coltrane was in fact ingenious.

Coltrane said:

“I was really honoured to have the opportunity of working with Duke. It was a wonderful experience. He has set standards I haven’t caught up with yet. I would have liked to have worked over all those numbers again, but then I guess the performances wouldn’t have had the same spontaneity. And they mightn’t have been any better!”

Duke Ellington & John Coltrane – AllMusic Review [5/5]

The classic 1962 album Duke Ellington & John Coltrane showcased the rising jazz saxophone innovator performing alongside the long-established piano institution.

While the pairing might have portended a dynamic clash of the musical generations, instead we got a casual, respectful, and musically generous meeting of like-minded souls.

Similarly, while one might have assumed that Ellington would use his sidemen, instead producer Bob Thiele chose to bring in Coltrane’s own outfit for the proceedings.

Consequently, the duo is backed here at various times by bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones, as well as alternates bassist Aaron Bell and drummer Sam Woodyard.

The most surprising aspect of the Ellington/Coltrane date is how well suited Coltrane and his group are at playing what largely ends up being Ellington’s own material.

While he was certainly in the nascency of his more avant-garde period in 1962, Coltrane had a deep understanding of traditional jazz vocabulary, having played in a swing band in the Navy in the 1940s and studied the style of artists like Hawkins and Ben Webster while coming up in Philadelphia.

His meeting with Coltrane was emblematic of his renewed creativity and was one of several albums he recorded in his latter life with theretofore unexpected artists, not the least of which his other 1962 date, Money Jungle with bassist Charles Mingus and drummer Max Roach.

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Duke Ellington – Piano
John Coltrane – Tenor (all but #3) and Soprano (#3) Saxophone
Jimmy Garrison – Bass (#2, #3, #6)
Aaron Bell – Bass (#1, #4, #5, #7)
Elvin Jones – Drums (#1-3, #6)
Sam Woodyard – Drums (#4, #5, #7)

Bob Thiele – Producer
Rudy Van Gelder – recording engineer

Track listing

  1. “In a Sentimental Mood” Irving Mills, Duke Ellington, Manny Kurtz 4:14
  2. “Take the Coltrane” Ellington 4:42
  3. “Big Nick” John Coltrane 4:30
  4. “Stevie” Ellington 4:22
  5. “My Little Brown Book” Billy Strayhorn 5:20
  6. “Angelica” Ellington 6:00
  7. “The Feeling of Jazz”Ellington, Bobby Troup, George T. Simon 5:34

Recorded September 26, 1962
Studio – Van Gelder Studio
(Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey)

Genre – Jazz

Length – 35:05

Label – Impulse!