Discover Challenge: Blue Train- John Coltrane

 

I guess the main song, which for the purpose of this post I treating as a structure for music which while technically accurate isn’t how most people perceive the term, that has always struck with me is Blue Train by John Coltrane.

The song in question is the opening and titular track of Coltrane’s only Blue Note album which was recorded while Trane was still on contract to Prestige Records and a thank you note appears in the liner notes. Music anecdotes declare that the album was recorded based purely on a verbal agreement between Trane and the Blue Note Label owners but I am not going to confirm or deny this as it bares little relevance to my relationship with the song. Now as it happens I didn’t actually first hear the track on the album but as part of one of those Best of Jazz compilations way back in 2000,  I was pretty much a wet behind the ears Jazz enthusiast in those days and most of the music I owned were genre compilations or “best of” types for a particular artist. mostly swing era based. I can’t really put my finger on what it was that blew me away (or should that be blue me away?…. oh alright please yourself) but the moment I heard those opening bars I was sat up and pricked my ears up and the majestic tones of Coltrane’s tenor solo swept me away. The minute the track finished I played it again and properly listened to the track and I am glad I did as it prompted me to hop on a bus to town and stroll into the Virgin Megastore and buy myself a copy of the album, my luck was out however as Blue Train was not one available in the shop and I can’t really recall if they had any John Coltrane at all as the Jazz section was tiny and mostly full of Norah Jones and Diana Krall albums (and twenty copies of Freddie Hubbard’s Open Sesame). Not wanting to be deterred I looked at the line up on the various albums they did have to see if Trane was a sideman on anything and sure enough he was on Round about Midnight and Milestones both of which are Miles Davis albums so into my collection they went, it’d be another six months before I finally got myself a copy of Blue Train.

Back to the track itself I think part of the appeal to me at the time related to my love of film noir and my growing interesting in detective stories as I was beginning to branch out from reading Sci-Fi and the track to me reflected the feel and atmosphere of the worlds of Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade and countless other detectives of the genre. It has a warm melancholy feel which I guess reflects my occasional nihilistic views of the world and reflects my view that the world isn’t a light place with dark shadows but a dark place with light places, areas to be treasured as eventually the lights go out and a new one is switched on elsewhere.

My love of Jazz was cemented by this track and while Coltrane may not be the artist I have the most albums of, that honour is taken by Miles Davis, he is a prominent feature of my collection. I may follow a cliché here and say I do find some of his later albums such as Meditations and Interstellar Space a bit too freeform for me but I do listen to a lot of his albums over and over again. 

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