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Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album (Deluxe Version)

July 8, 2018

I am still digesting Kamasi Washington’s recent double XL 5-LP set and this gift from the past arrives. Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album was recorded by Coltrane’s classic quartet March 6, 1963. This material was not released at the time and the master tapes were subsequently destroyed by Coltrane’s label (Impulse!) as a cost saving measure. But it turns out that the session’s producer, the great Rudy Van Gelder, had made a reference copy for Trane. Trane’s first wife Juanita (Naima) maintained possession of the tapes and they were discovered in her estate when she died. Coltrane’s label sat on the tapes a couple more decades. They were finally released in June of 2018. In the liner notes Sonny Rollins, a true peer of Coltrane, says the LP is “Like finding a new room in the Great Pyramid.”

My introduction to Coltrane was Miles’ Kind Of Blue – one of my favorite LPs. I then ignorantly picked up Trane’s Meditations. At the time, Meditations was way to “out there” for even my adventurous taste. I next bumped into Trane in Spike Lee’s movie Mo’ Better Blues. That movie has a montage scene that uses Trane’s Love Supreme, that caught my attention. Off and on for the next twenty-five years I have explored Love Supreme and Trane’s classic quartet on Impulse! McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums.

I consider myself a Trane fan, but I have to admit I am more of a Miles fan. I recently got reacquainted with Trane via Miles’ The Final Tour. On that album, Coltrane dominates the proceedings. The Final Tour reminded me of Trane’s greatness and I began re-exploring his catalog. That coupled with my infatuation with Kamasi Washington (a self-admitted Trane disciple), has me in a Coltrane state of mind as I approach Both Direction at Once: The Lost Album.

At the time this album was recorded (1963), Trane’s label had convinced him (and by all accounts Trane was complicit) into releasing accessible mainstream jazz. But on tour, Coltrane was flying his freak flag and foreshadowing the brilliance that would become Love Supreme.

The Lost Album is caught between what Coltrane was doing live and his official releases. Thus he was going “both directions at once.”

The Lost Album is primarily a Coltrane solo workout. The band is there to support him. Ravi Coltrane, Trane’s son, states that on this album “the guys are kind of stretching out and getting loose and blowing, having a good time in the studio.

The Lost Album is a high quality recording; this is not a demo. Although the original masters that were destroyed were stereo, the reference tapes that Van Gelder gave Trane were mono. I am kind of a fan of a good mono mix of acoustic jazz.

One of the great songs of Trane’s catalog is “Impressions.” I don’t believe that Coltrane ever released a studio version of the song, just live versions. On The Lost Album there are four studio versions. Two with a trio (McCoy Tyner’s piano sitting out) and two with the full quartet. For Coltrane aficionados these four versions will be worth the price of admission.

My favorite cut is “Slow Blues” which is a geared down “Chasin’ the Slow Trane.” This is an eleven and half minute jam.

This is not necessarily an essential album for the casual Coltrane fan, but it is a very solid album. It is essential for the hardcore Coltrane fan.

https://open.spotify.com/album/0NSRgubfAJoYv2kvVAcRKy?si=grgl3oOVS26ZiNiSA6PiDQ

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4 Comments
  1. Interesting. It’s not at all uncommon for people to go through archives and find unreleased tapes lying practically in plain sight. Like you I am more of a Miles fan. But certainly I like Coltrane too and he holds a special place because he was the very first jazz artist I was really turned on to. I see this one’s on Spotify. I’ll give it a spin. Thanks.

  2. Now you hit me with this. Once I start listening to John I seem to stay in his groove for a few days. His music just grabs me. It certainly takes me to a different place It wrings me out in a good way. I dig Rollin’s quote. Coltrane is one of the top people I reach for on the music pile.

  3. Hi Mr. Axl. I found this blog by chance. Actually I was looking for statements by McCoy Turner on The Lost Album. I did not find them. But I found many other good things here. I wanted to tell you. Sorry for my english, I asked the automatic translator a little bit of help 😉
    Thank you for sharing your discoveries.

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