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by Seth Colter Walls

May 6, 2013

Jazz 101: Coltrane's Quartet

by Seth Colter Walls  |  May 6, 2013

Jazz history is massive enough at this point to be a touch intimidating. With so many box sets and so many compilations to choose from, where to start? We've got you covered, era by era, with our Jazz 101 series, which you can follow here. Each daily playlist offers up five-star performances, and tips you off to albums with plenty more gold left to explore after the intro course is over. Enjoy.

In this series, we've already heard John Coltrane play with classic bands led by Monk and Miles. So it's safe to say the saxophonist was already a legend by the time he hooked up with pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones. But it was with this group that Coltrane made his most lasting, classic statements. Starting out with the legendary residency at the Village Vanguard in 1961 that heralded the coming avant-garde storm, this band covered a ton of ground: intense balladry, swinging postbop, soulful noise and the poetic talent for moving in between all these modes.

1965's A Love Supreme is an essential listen, front to back, but that's hardly the end of this group's legacy. "Afro Blue," recorded live at Birdland, sits on another classic album, 1963's Live at Birdland, with the Civil Rights ode "Alabama." Crescent is almost as good as A Love Supreme. And other albums, like Meditations and the simply titled Coltrane, offer their own gems. The band also collaborated with big bands, vocalists, Duke Ellington and others -- and would also form the core of later large-ensemble groups -- but the appended playlist has a strict policy: just these four musicians, making their classic sound.

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