The Bethlehem Years

The Bethlehem Years
Label: Bethlehem/Shout Factory
Rated: NONE
WorkNameSort: Bethlehem Years, The

It's nearly impossible not to notice that the press release accompanying this first batch of Shout Factory's Bethlehem jazz reissues goes on about how this fine jazz catalog has never been properly reissued – an observation made ironic when you consider that Rhino, the company from which several of Shout Factory's principals came, did an excellent job of stewarding this very same catalog back in the late '90s. However, "out of print" is "out of print," and the simple fact that these extraordinary Coltrane sessions are once again available in stores is cause for celebration. Neither straightforward bop nor squalling free jazz, these two discs (one of which contains 15 unreleased alternate takes … unless you count their release on the Rhino version of this set) document an odd, big-band turn for Coltrane. Utilizing a clutch of prime bebop players – Donald Byrd, Al Cohn, Freddie Green, Philly Joe Jones and others – Coltrane swings gorgeous and strong here. Though big-band forms would be toyed with throughout his career, this is his most groove-filled and traditional take on the style. And, thank God for Shout Factory, it's finally seeing the light of day. (Ahem.)

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