Autobiographical Order No. 319: Duke Ellington and John Coltrane – s/t

Most of the music I love, with certain exceptions like Depeche Mode, is the kind of thing that I don’t expect everyone else to love. I advocate for all the music I like, I’m always trying to turn new people onto things that impress me, and when I have an artist’s back, I’ll shout it to the rafters. But I also have weird tastes, and things resonate with me that don’t always work for everybody else. And that’s cool. I’m not only fine with that, I welcome it to a certain degree, for a couple reasons: 1. Most things that everybody likes tend to not feel special, or inversely, are hard to love because there’s often not much subtlety or layers to unravel; and 2. The people that do tend to like the weird things I do end up becoming good friends of mine, and bonds are formed over this strange piece of obscure or difficult art. (That’s an exaggeration, but you get what I’m saying.)

Jazz tends to be one of those things that doesn’t appeal to everyone. Certainly, I know a lot of people who dig Miles or Herbie, but it gets harder to win some listeners over with the far-out blasts of peak Pharoah or the more-abrasive-than-black-metal free jazz of Peter Brotzmann (even for me that’s a very occasional listen).  But getting into jazz doesn’t mean listening to Ascension or weirder Sun Ra records without preparation. No, you start with something that resonates with you first. Maybe it’s Kind of Blue. Maybe it’s even Herb Alpert. I said before that In A Silent Way was one of those albums that changed everything for me. But I can also credit a record that put two giants together in one session: Duke Ellington and John Coltrane.

Specifically, their iconic song “In a Sentimental Mood” is what hit me. It’s a beautiful song, highly melodic and structural in a way that a lot of jazz, particularly deeper into the ’60s, wasn’t. And the two musicians and bandleaders give stellar performances, but do so in a more subtle manner than expected. They serve the song, which isn’t the antithesis of jazz, but it’s rarely observed in such a way.

That led to me picking up the album (or downloading, who even knows anymore) when I was in college, and for that matter delving further into both artists’ catalogs. And 14 or so years later I finally picked this fantastic record up at a used record swap. It’s the kind of album that can make someone else love jazz like it did for me, though I can’t speak for how people hear or respond to music. But it’s a good album, anchored by one of the greatest songs ever recorded.

Rating: 9.3

Sound Quality: Good/Great

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