Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

January 21, 2013

John Coltrane, The Prestige Albums (Italian 12-cd set)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 3:07 pm


“His Prestige Albums”

 12-cd box set, from Universal Music Italy

coltrane prestige

I owned 4 of Coltrane’s many albums on the “Prestige” label, back when I was first getting into jazz as a highschool student in the 1970’s. You could find them relatively cheaply used and they still seemed to be in print in the early 70’s, back in the days when a good record store would at any time have 10-12 different Coltrane albums in stock…and a better record store might have 18-20. My, was that a long time ago!


My first exposure to Coltrane was A Love Supreme, then OM, then Interstellar Space (which I bought when it came out). I was already into avant-garde players such as Shepp and Braxton and Marion Brown, so I investigated Coltrane as being the man who inspired so many of my avant heroes. Then after hearing the later Coltrane, I would pick up the random Coltrane album when I saw them used or cheap. That’s how I stumbled across the albums such as Black Pearls. Most of what Coltrane recorded for Prestige was done in 1957-58 (although he’d recorded as a sideman on sessions with Elmo Hope and with Sonny Rollins in late 1956),  but many albums of unreleased material and/or sessions on which he’d originally been just a sideman (now issued under the Coltrane name, a marketing trick used by Jazz labels going back to the 1920’s) continued to come out on Prestige until 1965 (!!!), competing with Trane’s new product on Impulse. The Prestige  recordings date from the period when he was first with Miles Davis through when he rejoined Davis…and also when he joined Monk’s band. The roots of the famous “sheets of sound” are there, and in general, there is a richness and freshness to his playing in this period that is always enjoyable…and causes the albums to continue to be listenable over the decades. I suppose one would put these recordings in the “hard bop” category, and most of them are the kind of one-take “blowing session” or one-take expeditions through standards and ballads that one got from Prestige Records in this period. Blue Note always tended to be the higher-concept jazz label, while Savoy Records sessions tended to sound quickly recorded a la Prestige, but the albums were better programmed than Prestige’s, which often seemed like random assemblages to me,  a quickie snapshot of where the artists were at a certain point in time. Of course, for the majority of the fine jazz players they recorded, that was not a problem, as they could whip it out quickly and brilliantly. One wonders how Coltrane’s Prestige sessions would have been different had more time and care been given to them, but that’s water under the bridge now. A LOT was recorded, and we should be glad we have such a large body of work to enjoy, a body of work that has an appealing spontaneity to it because of the nature of its recording.


When I saw this album being sold online, for about $3 an album for 12 Prestige albums issued under Coltrane’s name, I assumed it was going to be a “public domain” needledrop release, like the many Euro-PD  “Eight Classic Albums” 4-cd sets you can buy for about $12. Imagine my surprise when it turned out this was a legit release, NOT a needledrop.

Here’s what you are getting. 12 cd’s with 12 albums, packaged in three 4-cd cases,  with just a small booklet w/ pics of the covers and track listing/personnel/ recording dates. But what’s important is the 12 cd’s of music, the 12 original albums. It’s easy to go online and look up the backstory of each album, which ones are cannibalized from unreleased material and tracks on which Coltrane was a sideman, etc. There’s even a brief Wikipedia entry on each album available, so no fancy notes are needed at this low price.

I remember buying an album on the infamous “Trip” budget label back in the 70’s under Coltrane’s name, which was actually recordings originally issued on Jubilee under tuba player Ray Draper’s name on which Trane was a sideman (there are some Draper sides here too!),  so we have Prestige to thank for starting that practice, but I loved that Trip album, so I guess I’m grateful if this dubious practice  gets more work out there.


  • 1. Dakar
  • 2. Coltrane
  • 3. Traneing In
  • 4. Soultrane
  • 5. Lush Life
  • 6. Settin’ The Pace
  • 7. Standard Coltrane
  • 8. Stardust
  • 9. The Believer
  • 10. Black Pearls
  • 11. Bahia
  • 12. The Last Trane


These contain the original album content, with none of the extra tracks/alternate takes that have been on the CD reissues.

john coltrane, last trane

Fantasy/Prestige/Concord  issued a massive Coltrane box that was beyond my price-range, and since that they have cut the material up into smaller boxes, each with a focus on a different aspect of the work (for instance, there is an excellent INTERPLAY box that features sideman work, most of which is NOT on this set), and most if not all of these albums are on cd individually, many with extra tracks. But for $3-4 an album for a legit box set of all 12 Coltrane Prestige albums, which is NOT a needledrop and which sounds great, this is THE release of the year. For those who do not buy much music, you could buy this and listen to it all year, and you would have a great year musically.

coltrane book

There’s nothing I can add that has not already been said about these sessions or about this period of Coltrane’s career or about Coltrane in general.  Just google his name or read the superb book by Lewis Porter. Better yet, get this box set and put one album on repeat each night after a long day at work, as the sun goes down, the weather chills, and you have time for contemplation…pour a fine microbrew or glass of wine, settle back, and enjoy one of the finest things life has to offer, the playing of John Coltrane, as captured on these quickie Prestige sessions, beautiful and rich snapshots of an artist stretching and growing and heading toward uncharted territory, but still working in the traditional post-hardbop style. If I were banished to the proverbial desert island with only one boxset (and a cd player and electricity, of course),  I would not be unhappy if it were this one…and once again, for $35-40, this is the buy of the year. You cannot afford NOT to own it…


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