John Coltrane Quartet's Crescent  Reissued by Verve/Acoustic Sounds

Crescent, John Coltrane’s 9th Impulse! Album, released in the summer of 1964, followed a pair of live albums (Live at Birdland and Impressions [mostly live tracks from the Vanguard dates]) and a pair of collaborations (Duke Ellington & John Coltrane, and John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman) with Ballads—a quickly recorded album of standards sandwiched in between.

The album of all Coltrane originals featuring the “classic quartet” begins with a pair of low-key, contemplative ballads: the title tune and “Wise One”, which in its midsection spotlights McCoy Tyner’s deep grooved explorations after which Coltrane enters with an expressive melt your mind melodic turn. The tune comes to a slow dramatic conclusion anchored by Garrison and Jones. An album highlight aided by RVG’s closely mic’d recording that gets everything right.

The side ends with “Bessie’s Blues” a short swinging toe tapper that would sound as at home in a club as on record.

Side two opens with “Lonnie’s Lament”, a bucket full of somber regret ripe for inclusion for a movie soundtrack. Garrison’s nifty solo is a highlight, after which the group returns to the somber regret heard at the beginning. A live version of this tune was recorded in Europe in 1962 before the studio date but not released until 1977 on Afro Blue Impressions (Pablo 2620 101) a double LP set you could pick up at one time for a song (or maybe even just a riff). In the notes Norman Granz writes that even before a mid-50s session at which Johnny Hodges brought along Coltrane, he was “playing rock and roll.” This twofer is not costly if you can find one (about $30 on Discogs) and the sound is surprisingly good though the stereo may be “fake”. Fortunately, it’s moderately and tastefully applied reverb that in no way detracts from great playing and programming.

“The Drum Thing” obviously is a vehicle for Elvin Jones but don’t worry, it’s not a grandiose splashy solo-laden showcase. The vehicle is more a boat ride through the Amazon.

At the end of the year that produced Crescent mid-year, Coltrane entered Van Gelder’s Englewood Cliffs Studio and recorded A Love Supreme released less than a month later in early 1965. The inner gatefold photo here was again used on A Love Supreme’s cover.

Ryan Smith has done a masterful job (no pun intended) with what again sounds like a master tape copy (unless the original tape has just lost some top end) at least based on a “top end” comparison where on the original Coltrane’s sax has greater “presence” texture and air and Jones’s drum kit more natural sizzle—as well as there being more “room air”— but it’s also easy to make a case for far better bass and piano presentation on the reissue. Rudy’s original sounds as if he’s rolled off the bottom and done a bit of compression. Overall if forced to choose one, I’m not sure I’d take the original over the new reissue, though I’m not selling the original (mine’s a second label, red/black, but otherwise a first pressing). That’s how good this is.

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garyalex's picture

"Crescent", based on sonics alone, is in my opinion the Coltrane Quartet's best album. It sounds so good that I don't see a need to buy the reissue. If you're a Coltrane Quartet fan and haven't heard this music give it a try. It's really good.

faskenite's picture

Hi Michael, I completely agree with you about Crescent. Believe it or not, I actually found my orange label US mono pressing in a bin for $8 (Cdn!). Btw, I think the live Impressions tracks are from the 1961 Village Vanguard recordings, no?

jazz's picture

with the ORG reissue?

Michael Fremer's picture
I'm going to do the group of them and will post excerpts. But nt immediately.
ilbiffo's picture

I have Crescent ORG reissue on 45 RPM and is stunning,
I don't think this edition can be better.For my experience the titles on 45 RPM sound better than the same titles on 33 RPM.I have Music Matters,AS,CR and Impex titles on both speed and 45 RPM is always the winner : more dinamic,biggest soundstage,best details,greater presence.
Same titles : MM Eric Dolphy "Out of Lunch", Wayne Shorter"Speak no Evil", AS Nina Simone "Little Girl Blue" ; CR Miles Davis "Sketches of Spain" ,Dave Brubeck "Time Out"(the 45 RPM are single side pressed); Impex Michel Legrand "Legrand Jazz"

jazz's picture

45 RPM always wins, but in case of different mastering it depends I’d say.

Michael Fremer's picture
If all else remains consistent.
Michael Fremer's picture
It may be your experience. The 33 1/3 Music Matters BNs cut at 33.3 on Kevin Gray’s updated system sound far superior to the 45s he cut at Acoustech. The new “Coltrane Village Vanguard” at 33 sounds far better than ORG 45 (etc.). I will post files soon. What is true is that cut at both speeds at the same time, the 45 beats the 33.
jazz's picture

I already ordered the AP as I don’t have the original in this case, so I don’t have to think about the ORG.
I have several ORG in parallel to the new AP as well as to the KG 45 Impulse.I agree with you regarding the Gil Evans and I don’t have the Hooker, not my music, so you’ll be right there, too. But from the first comparisons of others I didn’t have the impression the other KG Impulses are off (but I will recheck).

Can you tell which others (ORG and AP 45) you found inferior or off explicitly?

jazz's picture

you spoke of the Live@VV, so it will be interesting how the ORG Crescent compares.

jazz's picture

mostly the 45s also still beat 33s with the same mastering but better vinyl formula, at least in more relevant characteristics. Classic Records had several examples.

brednjam1's picture

And do you think that the new 33 RPM Crescent sounds as good as the 45 RPM ORG version?

Analog Scott's picture

Of the Music Matters 45 rpms and 33 rpms of the same titles I have, my preference has been for the 45 rpms in each case. I find the 33s to be more aggressive sounding. But I don't like that.

Michael Fremer's picture
If both 33 and 45 MM cut at Kevin's updated rig, the 45 is better (more accurate) but comparing the old rig at 45 vs the new at 33 it's really about which is more accurate to the tape. You can prefer a softer sound.
Analog Scott's picture

Then mastering engineers would be simple button pushers.There really isn't that much to doing a flat transfer other than being a good tape deck tech. The art of mastering involves making subjective decisions and changing the sound. I do suspect when Hoffman was involved in the Music Matters 45 rpm reissues he was implimenting some mastering moves that were making differences in the sound compared to a flat transfer. It's easy to hear those differences when one compares them to their Classics records counter parts cut by Bernie Grundman which were claimed by Michael Hobson to be "more accurate to the original master tapes." If it were only about accuracy then all we would need would be flat hi res digital transfers. And by the way, what is on the tape was recorded in larg part with those vintage Telfunken U47s which were notorious for a rise in the frequency response in the trebble. You can prefer the harder sound of those mics and the hard pans in the original stereo mixes for that matter. Preferences are inarguable. But the idea that one's preferences are somehow of a higher status because they adhere to accuracy to the master tape is convoluted thinking.

Analog Scott's picture

Did a little digging. Found this quote from Steve Hoffman.

"Rudy Van Gelder recorded stuff to sound good THEN, not now. THEN is what counted! People had cheap phonographs or Hi-Fi's, nothing like what we have now.

Rudy did all his "tricking" right on the master tape so he didn't have to redub and lose a generation.. In other words, he didn't record something and re-dub it adding compression, echo, EQ, etc., he did it all live in real time while the music was being recorded.

Roy DuNann and Howard Holzer at Contemporary recorded everything flat and dry and the "tricks" were added during LP disk mastering.

So, a Contemporary master tape today sounds amazing while a Prestige or Blue Note master tape needs a little "reverse trickery" to get it to sound better.

At the time though, the RVG recording technique made those Prestige and Blue Note LP's sing!"

This is why there is value in great mastering engineers and one of many reasons why accuracy for the sake of accuracy is not really always in service of better sound quality.

jazz's picture

and it sounds clearly better than the AP33 in similar regards as MF described for the Original, plus it has a better defined, if slightly less prominent bass than the AP.

jazz's picture

The bass is very important and prominent on this recording and great fun! If this reissue is far better in this regards than the original as you say, then it’s definitely a good investment, even if it’s not perfectly airy.

Very good music and matching sound.

samman's picture

Your review is dead on accurate in regards to the sound on this reissue. I bought this pressing at my local record store based on your review, and I was left just shaking my head and smiling wondering how the hell the original could be any better than this. Of course, I would have to hear it side by side, but this reissue is jaw dropping in both music and sound quality. When Mike gives it a 10, he means it!