I’ve always held to the belief that if you really wanted to get to the core of John Coltrane (and by extension, jazz), you didn’t have to look any further than his three takes on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic, “My Favorite Things”. Whenever someone asks me to give them a jazz recommendation to get them into Coltrane or the genre as a whole, those three versions are my immediate go-to ace card.
Ever since ‘Trane recorded the original take back in 1960 on the similarly-titled record, it became a nigh indispensable feature of his live repertoire. As he grew older, and, especially in those last 7 years, began stretching the scope of his vision to its limits, the once modal ballad rapidly evolved in dimension and execution. Each rendition was radically different to the original, with the one preceding it operating as a springboard for Coltrane’s ideas. The song takes on a phenomenal new form under his guidance as it encompasses a staggering degree of jazz sub genres, movements, and ethos.
Covers are no easy business. Whenever you take on a familiar tune, you’re automatically inviting the listener be critical of your effort. We’re highly perceptive to any sudden alteration and substitution. At the same time, this is why covers can work to such dramatic effect: the revisions of harmony, structure, or melody are instantly recognizable and poignant.
And that’s what ‘Trane accomplishes here. He introduces the song structured in its traditional format, albeit played with different instruments. When the main melody evaporates into that euphoric extended sax solo layered so effortlessly by McCoy Turner’s piano, the song is rocketed into an entirely new universe, both sonically and emotionally. It’s one of the most beautiful things in existence.
So if you’re keen, here are what I personally refer to as my “Jazz in Three”:
1) 1960: (the one above)
Cover image: John Coltrane at the Guggenheim, New York City, 1960, by William Claxton.
Discover more fantastic covers in The Rhapsody Covers Monday.