Song of the Day: John Coltrane, “My Favorite Things” (1961)

In 1960, John Coltrane solidified his status as the most influential saxophone soloist in the world, a role once filled by the great Charlie Parker. That same year, Miles Davis had bought him his first tenor saxophone while they were touring in Europe; before Coltrane took it up, it had rarely graced the jazz listener’s ear.

Coltrane plays it on two of the tracks on My Favorite Things but not on the title track, on which he still favors the alto. Yet, the LP showed the influence of Davis in another way: here, the saxophonist distanced himself from the previous bebop/hard-bop influences of his recordings and experimented with modal jazz.

Modal jazz encouraged soloing by doing without the constraints of chord progressions; it opened up new possibilities for improvisers and for Coltrane to unravel what Ira Gitler called his sheets of sound. While this cut is almost a quarter of an hour long, it doesn’t feel like it: every member of his stellar quartet – McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones and Steve Davis – was a legend in their own right and together they are able to turn an old and cheesy Broadway tune into something so deep that you could hear the meaning of life in it…

1 comment

  1. Appreciate your love of jazz, but a couple of corrections here. “My Favorite Things” is first album that featured Coltrane on soprano sax. Prior to that, he is known for his sharp piercing sound on tenor sax. He switched from clarinet to alto very early in his career, but most of his major recordings are on tenor, and to a lesser extent on soprano.

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