I was listening to Impressions the other day on my way to school. Upon arriving to my class I was asked what I was listening to by a classmate. I told them I was listening to Impressions and we both shared this odd look of understanding. Why? Well because Impressions is, in a word, heavy. It’s a challenging album to listen to. Coltrane really begins to push tonality and show more signs of himself leading towards a free jazz avant garde style. In other words, this aint your daddy’s Jazz band. With an iconic band consisting of Mccoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison and Reggie Workman on bass, Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet and alto sax, Roy Haynes and Elvin Jones on drums, and John Coltrane on sax, this album show us a sign of not only where Coltrane was going, but where Jazz in general was heading.
This album begins with the tune “India” which starts with just bass and drums. As soon as we hear John Coltrane come in he establishes the kind of sound we are going to get for the duration of this album. Coltrane immediately “just takes off” and plays out, fast, with a lot of saxophone playing that will later be associated with avant- garde. Coltrane solos and takes over the majority of the tune and we hear Dolphy take over soloing in min 6:30. Dolphy fits this tune like a glove. Dolphy is known for playing out and playing in an avant-garde, free jazz style so he is right at home with this tune. Again, this music is great, kind of heavy, but if you come with an open mind and give it time I’m sure you’ll grow to appreciate it.
As usual I won’t go in depth with every tune just highlight a couple. So while I love “Up ‘Gainst The Wall” I’m going to move on to “Impressions”. This tune is now considered a jazz standard and was composed by John Coltrane himself. The tune begins and ends with Coltrane. It’s really just Coltrane’s song on this album. He plays the head both times and he solos on it alone. Coltrane was notorious for playing long solos and I think this album and this tune in particular, showcases that. Trane was always filled with so many ideas and it seemed like he always wanted to play all of them. That’s why this progression seems logical. Trane was heading in this free jazz direction from the beginning. This song is definetly one where you can get lost in. It’s like 15 min long and it’s essentially just Trane shredding the whole time. So yeah you can absolutely get lost and overwhelmed by this recording, but again, it’s absolutely killer and has became an iconic tune and an iconic recording.
The final tune I will talk about it “Dear Old Stockholm” this is one of my favorite tunes on the album. It’s considered to be a jazz standard although in my opinion it’s a bit uncommon to hear it called at say, a jam session. Another fun fact is that it was actually originally a Swedish Fold song. Many people are unaware of this even in the jazz community, but it’s true. Of all the tunes on this album this one seems to be the most traditional. Mainly because it just doesn’t go as far out as the other aformentioned tunes. Still this tune is vintage Coltrane. He plays the melody beautifully, solos first, and right away you are aware Coltrane is soloing. Plays with confidence, conviction, and some of his standard licks. McCoy Tyner solos after Trane and he is the only soloist besides Coltrane. He plays beautifully and is a nice change of pace from all the Coltrane we’ve been hearing.
This album can be overbearing at times. Not too many changes in dynamics and it’s generally Coltrane blowing the vast majority of the time. Still, if you are an experienced fan of jazz, and are open to all styles, I’m sure you’ll find the quality and value in this album. This is Coltrane playing some of his most virtuosic music, although if you follow his career chronologically, there is certainly more to come.