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October 17, 2013

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Get On Board the Sun Ship or Move In Spectrums

New/old Trane, revivalist Au Revoir Simone

John Coltrane

Sun Ship: The Complete Session

(Impulse!/Mosaic)

Occasionally, an uncovering of “lost tapes” will cause jazz geeks to have a collective climax, like the excellent Carnegie Hall concert recording discovered in 2005 featuring Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. A more recent discovery has been the complete recording session made on August 26, 1965 by John Coltrane’s “classic quartet,” featuring tracks that would comprise the posthumous 1971 release Sun Ship, which is now significant if only for being the sole complete session made by the quartet that has survived over the years. The release at hand features over an hour of unreleased music—alternate takes, inserts and studio conversation—on two CDs (on Impulse!) or three LPs (on Mosaic), and take note that it doesn’t actually include the edited, finished album as assembled by Alice Coltrane and Ed Michel.

The session was at an interesting time, toward the end of the quartet’s run, occurring less than a year after the acknowledged masterpiece A Love Supreme and one month before the tumultuous, difficult and sometimes maligned yet fascinating septet recording Om. Sun Ship is not inaccessible, but it leans toward the fringes, particularly with Coltrane himself on tenor sax on the title track, with hearty near-bleats of small note patterns and furious trills. “Amen” underscores this gentlemanly conflict, with articulate, swift scampering from pianist McCoy Tyner and drummer Elvin Jones sustaining the piece with passionate momentum, seemingly pushed by Coltrane for greater intensity. The session is presented chronologically, so “Dearly Beloved” opens the set, rather than the title track, presenting a deeply emotional type of jazz balladry, with Jones crucially setting the mood with rumbles and rolls.

Included are eight takes of “Ascent,” which is seven takes more than what the casual listener probably needs, featuring wanderings from bassist Jimmy Garrison, sometimes hitting that sweet spot, and if anything, Sun Ship: The Complete Session, demonstrates that editing truly is an underrated art, allowing Coltrane fanatics to acutely understand that wise decisions were made to produce the completed album.

Au Revoir Simone

Move in Spectrums

(Instant)

For those who have grown weary of the seemingly endless parade of shameless ’80s revival acts that can drive a person to self-harm, a cursory glance at the Brooklyn all-woman electro-pop trio Au Revoir Simone’s latest album Move in Spectrums might not bode well. The man behind the group’s new label home Instant Records, Richard Gottehrer, co-founded the new wave mainstay

Sire Records and produced the likes of The Go-Go’s and Blondie, and the group’s music video for “Crazy” is a shot-by-shot tribute to the 1985 film "After Hours". Don’t be fooled, though; Au Revoir Simone mercifully stands apart from the crowd, and although its clean, purely artificial synth notes and gated beatbox beats might have certain commonalities with new-wave-era music, this is no wink with ironic detachment. A drum machine “clap” sound has rarely sounded so sincere within the last two decades.

Many have written that Au Revoir Simone exudes innocence, but this writer simply attributes that to the group’s lack of smugness or a hidden agenda; it’s cute music, sure, but it’s not cloying or naïve. The album’s first salvo is pretty irresistible for pop lovers, with the opener “More Than” featuring an earworm chorus that could open a discussion about what makes a melody a good melody; in this case, it’s a perfect hook, cemented by an infectious vocal rhythm and the tried-and-true ascending-note climb, with payoff. Fans won’t find Move in Spectrums to be a huge departure from the band’s previous proper albums, with certain elements thrown into the synth-pop mix like live drumming on “Love You Don’t Know Me” and guitar licks on the highlight “Crazy,” which has a certain Go-Go’s-esque enthusiasm to it. So, don’t call them revivalists, and if one must lump, then lump them in with other smart, pert indie-pop acts such as Club 8 and Lali Puna. Move in Spectrums features simple joys, and guarded listeners and synth-pop fans should let their melodies creep in and infect them.

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October 17, 2013

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