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Locomotive, old-fashioned and blue.
on December 19, 2001
It is easy to see why 'Blue Train' is one of the best-selling and most loved jazz albums of all time. From the famous, if untypically intense, opening bars of the title track, Coltrane is dedicated to offering the purest pleasure, now laidback, now party-swinging, a far cry from the far-out experimentation of his later work. With Paul Chambers' bass and Philly Joe Jones' drums furiously fretting like slaves on a Roman galley, Coltranes' sax blows melody after honeyed melody, mostly upbeat, with 'Locomotion' indicating both the music's forward momentum and its sense of taking you on a journey; but also reflective and nostalgic, as in the tight but beautifully brooding 'I'm Old Fashioned'. I particularly love the wood-twanging bass solos on 'Moment's Notice' and 'Lazy Bird'.
This kind of music has been a lazy signifier of 'cool' in innumerable night-club scenes from films and TV shows, but Coltrane's quiet intelligence ensures this remains as fresh and fun as the day it was recorded. It may be asking too much for an album that puts a huge grin on your face to also burn your soul - for that you must look elsewhere.