Coltrane's 1962 tour of Europe and Scandinavia is a very rich seam to mine, with the Graz concert certainly being the crown jewel of that trip. The recordings capture the classic quartet early in their timeline. Coltrane, having famously garnered criticism for his work with Dolphy (that whole anti-jazz thing), sounds laser focused on his vision here. Blowing long, technical, and inspired solos that elevate his band mates and inspire some of the greatest jazz playing ever laid down. The material here has been widely available for a long time and I've heard it myself several times. The main differentiator with the ezz-thetics reissues is the remastering. Sure, the concert was split up into two releases and the tracks reordered to change things up, but that's all peripheral in these digital days where the temporal is infinitely malleable. The remastering job on this disc, as well as its companion, 2019's Impressions, Graz 1962 borders on perfection (if I might indulge in a bit of hyperbole). It isn't overdone as is sometimes the case, all the warmth and ambience of the recording is maintained, but the lines are ever-so-slightly-sharper, the mix ever-so-slightly-crisper, and it makes a big difference. You can hear Jimmy Garrison cleanly on all of the tracks, and that in itself remedied a long-running complaint about the Graz concert tapes. Coltrane sounds fantastic, as does McCoy, only Jones and Garrison remain slightly murky, but I've (and you've) heard much, much worse.
The disc opens with "Mr. P.C.", the closer from 1960's Giant Steps and the 5th piece in the original concert setlist. Coltrane's dedication to his former bassist and friend Paul Chambers also serves as his lone composition on this disc. High energy swing from the drop, Coltrane delivers an extended workout that's bookended by quick solos from Tyner and Jones. The next track is Cole Porter's ballad "Everytime We Say Goodbye", which Coltrane recorded previously for 1961's My Favorite Things. The song is the fourth piece in the setlist of the Graz concert, for those keeping track. Here the standard is given a sultry reading that begs reflection, sentimentality, or maybe a slow dance. Beautiful playing by McCoy Tyner on the shortest track, adding touches of elegance with his tonal contrasts. The next track is the Ray Henderson standard "Bye, Bye Blackbird", with which Coltrane opened the 62' Graz concert. It's a song from his time playing with Miles Davis' Quintet and, as noted in Art Lange's liner notes, he enjoyed stretching it out with his own group. On this version after relatively brief solos by Coltrane and Tyner there's a really nice, long solo from Jimmy Garrison, his powerful finger work supported with quiet accents from Tyner and Jones. The final piece (and concert closer) is a ferocious rendition of Coltrane's favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein song, the album's namesake. Coltrane's soloing steals the show of course, as the straight horn strains to contain his power and velocity. The correct choice was made by ezz-thetics in leaving it as the closer, its beauty and intensity would be impossible to top.
Even though the liberties taken with the track order might irritate some purists, in the end I think the reshuffle isolates each individual piece a bit more. It made it easier to assess each cut on its own merit, rather than as a part of the whole. And again, if you must have the original concert order, buy both discs, rip, and reorder. Coltrane fans will want the music anyway as most will consider this album and its companion the new standard with regards to sound quality for the 1962 Graz concert. Get them while you can.
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