Blogs 'N' Sods #2: One Giant Step for Jazz

This original review was rejected by the owner of the website I was asked to ghostwrite for. Some things are not about money.

Have been asked to clarify this review, since it is out of context:
1. The original CD pressing of Giant Steps came out on 1987. It is the version I suggest you find.
2. The review referenced here in blue is for the second issue of this release on CD, in 1998, which included some outtakes as bonus tracks. Slightly more processed sound, but still great. This remastered version also appears on the Coltrane box set, The Heavyweight Champion. The 1998 review was included to compare and contrast with a current re-issue.
3. The review that was rejected was the one from last summer. It seems there have been no less than six more versions of this title re-released (possibly more) since 1998, but the sound has not improved one bit.

Yes, it is easy to get lost in the maze a little. Understand this: many labels, particularly in a downward economy, rely heavily on their catalogue, and will often repurpose and repackage it to cash in on a new trend or introduce an audience to that “product”, using record company terminology.

In summary: Do your homework, ask around, don’t get burned and save some money. This is what makes jazz fans so great. We’re usually broke, but want others to experience what we have enjoyed.

The rejected review follows:

Everyone’s trying to rip you off these days.

Had a hard time deciding what to make the second Blogs ‘N’ Sods pick of the week. After getting an e-mail about a “limited edition” version of this release I could own for 60 BUCKS on vinyl, I just had to tell you a little story.

Here is a short review I wrote about the second CD issue of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps back in 1998 for a newspaper article:

For my money, the single greatest statement on instrumental jazz ever. Period. Do not even attempt to argue with me on this one. You will not win.

This release does what many musical works fail to do: provide a wide range of color, emotion, and soul without uttering a single spoken word. From hot numbers such as the title track, to mid-tempo selections like “Syeeda’s Song Flute,” to the stunningly simple and heartbreakingly beautiful slow burner “Naima,” this is one album that delivers on the money every single time.

Hear for yourself why artists as diverse as Santana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers cite him as one of the greats.

The one thing that has changed significantly since 1998: the cost of the releases. To be completely honest, Atlantic’s jazz recording of this period may be highly influential and essential in any true collection of music, but the sheer fact of the matter is this: they didn’t sound all that great compared to say, Columbia, Capitol or Blue Note albums of the time. Poor care of master tapes from this era has also made things a mess.

Since then, numerous reissues have appeared, and it is truly amazing to see such care, detail and praise still bestowed on this 50+ year old recording. What remains is this: if you can find an original, used 1987 CD pressing of this album, not remastered or trying to gouge you with an exclusive, very limited double disc 45 rpm vinyl box set, you will have what is arguably the BEST sounding version of this recording. Find it used, or borrow a copy from the library. The sound on the original CD issue is natural and warm, not overly digitally processed, as many later editions are. Even a recent single vinyl disc remaster and re-release sounded tinny and flat by comparison.

Sometimes, just letting the music speak for itself as it originally once did does the trick. And, in the case of Giant Steps, if you can get it in a used CD bin, you get a great sounding and truly influential jazz masterpiece at a bargain price. Now, go impress your friends…

end of rejected review

Love to you all.

 Ben Bear

originally published on 13 August 2014

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