John Coltrane Quartet: John Coltrane (soprano & tenor saxophones); McCoy Tyner (piano); Jimmy Garrison (bass); Elvin Jones (drums).
Additional personnel: Art Davis (bass).
Producer: Bob Thiele.
Reissue producer: Michael Cuscuna.
Digitally remastered using 20-bit technology by Erick Labson (MCA Music Media Studios).
John Coltrane/John Coltrane Quartet: John Coltrane.
Personnel: John Coltrane (soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone); Jimmy Garrison (bass instrument, double bass); Art Davis (double bass); Elvin Jones (drums); McCoy Tyner (piano).
Liner Note Author: Frank Kofsky.
Recording information: Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, NJ (02/18/1965/05/17/1965).
1965 was a seminal year for the John Coltrane Quartet, a period in which the leader instigated a bold cycle of exploratory new directions, leading to such extended free jazz rites as ASCENSION and MEDITATIONS. Yet for all the emotional turbulence and the protracted solo flights, THE JOHN COLTRANE QUARTET PLAYS finds the saxophonist taking an affectionate, powerful backwards glance at the foundation of his quartet's collective sound.
From the opening strains of "Chim Chim Cheree," it's obvious that this unlikely tune represents a return to the near-Eastern style of incantation which made "My Favorite Things" such a hypnotic vehicle for extended improvisation. McCoy Tyner's tart, chanting chords and Jimmy Garrison's elliptical vamp pare all the sentimentality away from the tune, providing a sultry rhythmic/harmonic ambience for Trane's freewheeling soprano flights. While the relative familiarity of this and other themes lends a reflective note to this session, the level of improvisational intensity is still imposing.
"Brazilia" begins with a rolling, airy duet between Coltrane and Elvin Jones, culminating in a powerful 4/4 groove, as Trane erects complex harmonic sand castles, toying with time and theme until Tyner's complex blend of rhythm and melody expands upon the tenor saxophone's ideas with grace. The theme to "Nature Boy" is given a lush, atmospheric reading, as Garrison and additional bassist Art Davis create a lovely droning subtext; Trane's conversation with Davis' arco bass is full of yearning and coiled intensity. Finally, Garrison's folkish strumming sets the mood for "Song Of Praise." When Trane, Tyner and Jones finally enter out of tempo, it is with remarkable tenderness, slowly building to a stirring catharsis. It's yet another reminder that Coltrane's greatness wasn't simply predicated on intellectual abstraction and rhythmic intensity, but on the most fundamental of human emotions.
Record Collector (magazine) (p.87) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[I]t's an album that consolidates A LOVE SUPREME's spiritual mysticism and features some intensely probing and otherworldly improvisations."