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John Coltrane

In the extensive liner notes that accompany this five-disc set, jazz writer Nat Hentoff quotes John Coltrane as having once said, "I wish I could walk up to my music as if I'd never heard it before. I'll never know what the listener feels, and that's too bad." For the bulk of Interplay, the new box set taken from some fairly obscure sessions during the late 1950s, a still relatively young Coltrane is encountered tinkering with new styles and capturing their results for the first time. The material here, originally released across a span of eight Prestige albums, features some unorthodox group configurations, such as the four-tenor "conclave" of Coltrane/Al Cohn/Hank Mobley/Zoot Simms, a double-baritone group featuring baritone sax players Cecil Payne and Pepper Adams, and two groups that feature guitarist Kenny Burrell. The allure of this new package lies in the fact that Coltrane's work from the same period as sideman to Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis has received far greater scrutiny, and this is a side of Trane without much of that pressure. The listenability factor is high throughout, especially on the delightfully melodic fifth disc, which means that Interplay should hold substantial appeal for the casual fan or the initiate, as well as the completist, despite the relative obscurity of the tracks. And exquisite packaging makes Interplay a sumptuous feast for the eyes and ears.

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Saby Reyes-Kulkarni