Living Space (Impulse! 246)
A collection of recordings released posthumously, Living Space had its original incarnation as a 1978 album entitled The Mastery of John Coltrane Volume One: Feelin' Good. I would love to talk to someone who bought that album expecting good-time cocktail jazz or dinner music. "Hm, I'm having the boss and his wife over for dinner on Friday, better get some nice jazz to play in the background." HONK HONK HONK.
Well, Living Space isn't quite that full of honking, but I wouldn't have titled it Feelin' Good, either, even though in a Coltrane sort of way, it's breezy. These recordings were made about six months after A Love Supreme and show somewhat of a return to the style the quartet was doing before that album exploded the possibilities of jazz into a million fragments.
It's useful that Impulse! has reissued these as a proper album, as the sessions basically did amount to a new Coltrane quartet album, although this is another of his albums that I enjoy more in the context of his complete Impulse! studio recordings than as a separate entity.
Good as the music is, it just doesn't seem to have the cohesion of an effort like Sun Ship or The John Coltrane Quartet Plays. Hm, I'm getting the feeling that all these Coltrane reviews are blending together and saying the same thing over and over. I can only hope that, like the music, the reviews are still enjoyable even though you already get the general idea.
The cuts on Living Space are uniformly good, though they tend to inspire a bit of "Coltrane autopilot" in terms of listener response, like you sort of know where it's all heading. Oh, here's another long Jimmy Garrison bass solo. Wow, listen to that impressive, pristine piano by McCoy Tyner. Damn, Elvin Jones sure can roll them drums. Coltrane is amazing. Wow, my ears like this. Yum, this orange juice is delicious. I wonder what I shall have for breakfast tomorrow. I'm looking forward to "Law & Order" tomorrow.
Hm I suppose I could explain myself a bit better. This is amazing music, but doesn't command the listener to bow down like many of Coltrane's albums do. High points include Tyner's solo on "Untitled 90320," the overdubbed soprano sax on "Living Space" (always nice to hear Coltrane playing with himself wait, that came out wrong! *laugh track*), and the unexpected brightness of "The Last Blues," a bonus track discovered by Ravi Coltrane when this CD was being compiled.
It's a good CD and an example of later Coltrane that isn't stereotypically "wacked out" as my Grandmother would say about my drug-abusing Grandfather. Once again, if you own the Quartet box set, you don't need this, and it should be maybe your tenth or twelfth Coltrane purchase. Still, a good CD and, like everything Coltrane recorded, well worth hearing. Okay, now I have to stop for the night before I'm (gasp) Coltrane'd out!
Review by Ian Pampon