On March 6, 1963, John Coltrane and his quartet arrived at Van Gelder Studios in New Jersey to record an album. It was a busy time for the group, which featured pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones. They were at the tail end of a two-week residency at the Birdland jazz club in Manhattan, and the very next day they would record an album with singer Johnny Hartman.
But the recordings from that March afternoon session never saw the light of day — until now. Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album is being released by Impulse! Records on June 29 and features two Coltrane compositions that have never been heard before from a time when the quartet was at the height of its musicianship. The album includes unique renditions of the Coltrane classic “Impressions” and several other tracks that the quartet would release down the line.
“To have an entire album of music surface, this is definitely a rare thing,” Ravi Coltrane, John Coltrane’s son, explains in a conversation with NPR’s Audie Cornish and Jazz Night In America host Christian McBride. The younger Coltrane, who is also a saxophonist, helped put the album together. “It’s kind of like a little time capsule. It gives us a glimpse fifty years into the past of this incredible working band,” he says.
“Any time you can find a whole album’s worth of never-before-heard John Coltrane quartet music, that’s very significant,” McBride says.
According to McBride, 1963 was a pivotal year for Coltrane. He had left behind his early bebop roots and was beginning to enter the avant-garde, free-jazz phase that would define the last few years of his life. (John Coltrane died in 1967.)