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88 of 95 found the following review helpful:
Coltrane's most important album. May 07, 2002
By Samuel Chell
It's understandable that many listeners may prefer to "Giant Steps" the more accessible earlier or later Trane. The former offers up his explorations within more familiar song forms; the latter makes the song secondary to the soloist's quest for a rapture beyond musical form altogether. "Giant Steps," on the other hand, is a musican's album. It set a new standard not only for saxophonists but all musicians, requiring a combination of harmonic knowledge and technical facility that sent numerous musicians back to the woodshed for countless hours of practice. Without this album, and especially the title song and "The Countdown," Coltrane's early work would have seemed short of realizing its potential, and his later work would have been open to increasing suspicion about his actual credentials. Like Armstrong's cadenza on "West End Blues" and Bird's break on "Night in Tunisia," "Giant Steps" turned heads and gave a generation of musicians a whole new understanding of what jazz improvisation was capable of producing.
For the more technically minded, Trane's revision of dominant-tonic harmony is more impressive than his later embracing of modes as the sole platform for his scales and upper register probings. Suggested by the challenging bridge of Rodgers and Hart's "Have You Met Miss Jones," the sequence moves through a cycle of descending major thirds which, in the hands of most musicians, feels awkward and unnatural. Coltrane not only mastered the sequence but learned how to use it as a substitution in conventional harmonic settings. More impressively, he learned to execute it with an agility and naturalness that makes it possible for the listener to ignore the harmonic underpinning entirely and be swept up by the wave of emotion and melodic inventiveness.
"Giant Steps" is the main reason Sonny Rollins temporarily stopped playing in public. To his credit he came up with his own solution to the tyrannous sameness of much pop song harmony, but he was never able to come to terms with the harmonic complexity and technical innovations introduced by Coltrane. On the other hand, few have.
53 of 60 found the following review helpful:
'Giant Steps' revisited - with a technical 'correction'... Apr 30, 2004
By T. Fuller Dean
My purpose here is not to simply add more superlatives to this legendary album's justly proud reputation -- it's everything and more that has been written about it of a praiseworthy nature; and you'll find plenty of praise here in these reviews (see especially the insightful words from Samuel Chell). But there remains one rather 'technical', and curiously long-lived misconception about GIANT STEPS which, as a serious student of jazz and avid music collector, myself (I have virtually all of Coltrane's impressive recorded output), I have wanted to correct
for years -- a misunderstanding which, I hasten to add, in NO way diminishes the brilliance and stature of this pivotal milestone in Coltrane's prolific career.
The problem is this: over the years, repeated references (and you'll find some of them in these reviews) to this classic album's being the ultimate representation of Coltrane's famous
'sheets of sound' phase, or technique, are simply mistaken. The so-called 'sheets of sound' effect that so startled early Coltrane audiences, in fact, emerged in his late '50s albums for Prestige -- not yet fully developed in the '56-'57 sides with the early Miles Davis Quintet (not even on that groundbreaking group's final recording, Miles' first for Columbia, 'ROUND ABOUT MIDNIGHT), but very well documented, even dominating, in Coltrane's prolific late '57-'58 period on Prestige, where the best examples of his 'sheets of sound' are to be found.
Technically, 'Trane's much-touted 'sheets of sound' amounted to his simply (!) shifting into a 'higher gear', at slow-to-medium-fast tempos -- essentially, playing more 16th notes (i.e., 4 notes to every beat), instead of relying on the more typical
8th-note orientation (i.e., 2 notes to each beat) of most modern jazz solos from early be-bop onward. Coltrane's solos during this period often used this technique to the point of letting those rapid-fire, 16th-note runs dominate his playing -- giving rise to the description, 'sheets of sound', or, sometimes, the more pejorative (and unjust) charge from critics that he was just 'running scales'. Upon even cursory examination, Coltrane's solos on GIANT STEPS, on the contrary -- despite the prevalence of furious tempos (which should not be confused with how many notes PER BEAT are being played!) -- actually do NOT contain a preponderance of the notorious 16th-note passages. In fact, the relatively spare use of his well-established, '4-to-the-beat' phrases on this 1960 classic might be viewed as one of the more 'unexpected' aspects of this landmark entry in the great Coltrane legacy. His wonderfully agile, complex, and justly famous solos on such pieces as the title track, and even the demonically paced 'Countdown', in fact, consist of predominantly 8th notes; and, while the fast tempos, themselves, of course, may dictate a rapid torrent of notes, they still mostly come at 'only' 2 to the beat -- not the daunting 4 per beat that really define the 'sheets of sound' effect. It may be suggested that the generally fast tempos on GIANT STEPS are largely responsible for the relative absence of 16th-note runs throughout the album (as a practical limitation, even for Coltrane!); yet, it also is true that even the more moderately paced pieces -- normally more conducive to 'sheets of sound' flights -- are relatively free of that effect, compared to Coltrane's previous work on Prestige.
At this album's date, the intense, multi-noted, and profoundly influential explorations that would largely define Coltrane's approach, even to the end, were yet to be applied in still other musical contexts, as this jazz giant's expansive music evolved from the 'interim' Atlantic years into the final, long Impulse! period of cutting-edge experimentation. The initial shock of those earlier 'sheets of sound' would dissipate, and seem 'tame' by comparison -- or, perhaps, just 'inevitable' building blocks in the larger scheme of things ... and the legend would only grow.
17 of 17 found the following review helpful:
One of the top essential jazz albums May 06, 2012
By Mike Tarrani
This album marks a first for many reasons: first Coltrane recorded for Atlantic, first where all of the tracks are his compositions, and the first where his "sheets of sound" phrasing was prominent (it was not new, but came to the forefront with this album.) In a way, Coltrane is finally 'discovered' on this album because he is neither in the shadows of Miles, nor is he displaying his abilities on standards and compositions of others.
Everyone - every jazz aficionado and all musicians regardless of genre - should own this album. It broke new ground when it was released in January of 1960, and continues to this day to exert a major influence on musicians as well as listeners.
I could blather on about changes and progressions, but that does not describe the music to the non-musician listener who has every right to enjoy this album on its own merits without some snob implying that its too sophisticated. The samples on this page give a hint, but that should be all you need to make a purchase decision. For musicians I highly recommend augmenting with album with Giant Steps: A Player's Guide To Coltrane's Harmony for ALL Instrumentalists. For Everyone else, I recommend purchasing it without further thought.
25 of 30 found the following review helpful:
Hold on! Mar 08, 2007
By Samuel Chell
I decided it was time to replace both my original vinyl and 1990 editions, so I pre-ordered this March 6, 2007 release of the "Deluxe, Mini-LP" edition with the hope of improved audio and the assurance of the extra tracks included with the previous deluxe edition. Much to my dismay, what I received is the original 7-track album, its only claim to uniqueness being that it's "the authentic original LP Packaging Lovingly Reproduced in a CD-Sized Jacket."
Nice sentiment, but not good enough for me. Not only are the micro-sized liner notes illegible but the manufacturer has saved the expense of an enclosed booklet and jewel case in addition to shorting the consumer the five tracks on the deluxe edition.
In defense of Amazon, I see that another site is also advertising this 3/6/07 release as "deluxe" and comprising "12 tracks." Atlantic/Rhino apparently misinformed their marketers. The next test: I've never returned an opened CD to Amazon, though if any site is good for a refund, it's likely to be this one.
[Since writing this I see that Amazon has made available as downloads alternative takes of not merely 5 but 8 alternative takes. Consequently, purchasers of this release may perhaps be less wary of receiving an edition with the original 7 tracks. On the other hand, collectors who already have the original vinyl release and (in my case) the 1990 CD version as well, may wish to pass this one up in favor of "Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane, Carnegie Hall, 1957" (the most thrilling and, imo, important new release of the present millennium). Or, another essential session, "John Coltrane Live at Birdland" (primarily because of John's jaw-dropping cadenza on "I Want to Talk about You" (a tune he had recorded with Red Garland in the '50s, but not like this version with McCoy, Elvin and Jimmy).]
9 of 9 found the following review helpful:
a superb Jazz masterpiece from 1959 Jan 27, 2001
By Funkmeister G
For too long I had listened to Miles & sort of avoided Coltrane's work, partly out of fear of overbearingly religious tones. I should have been slapped around, but eventually I knew I must get some of it, within the same week I bought The Avant-Garde [w/ Don Cherry] & Giant Steps. This is such a phenomenally brilliant & beautiful album & I am content to play it everyday, & the alternate of 5 of the 7 tunes don't sound like repetition. Someone said about the breakthru of the opening title track & then said it was unemotional, whilst I'm unfamilar w/ his earlier work, I do not belive Giant Steps to be a cold piece for intellectuals & musicians only, it breathes freely & soulfully & the band plays very smoothly, Paul Chambers on bass, Tommy Flanagan on piano [Cedar Walton & Wynton Kelly feature on some other tunes instead] & Art Taylor on drums [replaced by Jimmy Cobb & Lex Humphries on others]. Many of the songs here are named for his friends, Naima for his 1st wife [pre-Alice], the central ballad of the album & 1 of the main tunes throughout his career, Syeeda' Song Flute for his daughter, a sort of funny & childlike tune that of course gets more mature as it goes along, Cosuin Mary [sel-explanatory], & Mr P.C., a showcase for Paul Chambers. The shortest song & 1 that's I'm particularly fons of is Countdown features a big drum solo intro & then otherwordly loud-but-not-noisy tenor sax action galore, @ the right vloume it can really get you moving, the following Spiral is similarly great. My edition features a foldout 10" reproduction of the original back cover which is better than the 1 page 5" facsimiles so common in these reissues w/ everything retyped & doubled-up. Produced by Nesuhi Ertegun for the Atlantic label the same year under the same circumstances for Ornette's Shape of Jazz To Come & when JC & some of the other players had already helped create Kind of Blue, this was a good time for jazz, luckily you can listen to them anytime for eternity, all come highly recommended. Giant Steps is accessible but highly rewarding.
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