Producer Bob Thiele had the foresight to realize that John Coltrane's creative arc was ascendant, allowing the saxophonist unlimited studio time during their years at Impulse! However, many of the sessions from the final year of his life were long presumed lost, when in fact, they were safely stored away in wife Alice Coltrane's possession.
Even for hardcore Coltrane fans, the beauty and power of STELLAR REGIONS should prove a revelation. The session was a particularly inspiring date by the final version of the John Coltrane Quartet--featuring bassist Jimmy Garrison, drummer Rashied Ali and pianist Alice Coltrane. STELLAR REGIONS shows that Coltrane's restless creativity was still at play, as he scaled down and distilled elements from his "late period." Improvisations that used to last hours are now reprised in a few minutes (the angelic title tune, the jagged "Iris," the angular alternate take of "Tranesonic") with fresh melodic contrasts and bold modal shapes ("Configuration" and "Sun Star") to accommodate the thrashing excitement of the band's playing.
There are many moments of serene beauty to contemplate. Voluptuous melodies and heraldic gestures serve to mitigate the band's turbulent collective transformations, exemplified by the opening "Seraphic Light," where Trane's immense, sonorous chant evokes the ardor of a country preacher, over Garrison's bowed counterpoint. With remastered sound, Garrison's bass is present as never before (and beautifully showcased on the folkish "Jimmy's Mode"), while Alice's oceanic, free-form rhythmic cycles give the rhythm section its emotional thrust, providing a lyric contrast to Trane's visceral metamorphosis on performances such as "Tranesonic." Trane's lovely theme "Offering'--with its beguiling echoes of "A Love Supreme," an expressive tenor-drums exchange, and celestial coda--was previously released on EXPRESSION, and is included on STELLAR REGIONS as the emotional centerpiece of an unforgettable journey into the unknown. Hard to believe that this musical shaman would succumb to cancer five months later.
John Coltrane (tenor saxophone); Alice Coltrane (piano); Jimmy Garrison (bass); Rashied Ali (drums).
01 Seraphic Light
02 Sun Star
03 Stellar Regions
07 Jimmy's Mode
09 Stellar Regions - (Alternate Take)
10 Sun Star - (Alternate Take)
11 Tranesonic - (Alternate Take)