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Blue World offers a glimpse of the John Coltrane Quartet in a state of relaxed assurance / Pitchfork

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Long-lost soundtrack recordings by the saxophonist's powerhouse quartet, made shortly after 1964's Crescent sessions, capture the band at the peak of its cohesion.

Sometimes a thing can be hidden without really hiding. Blue World, a previously unissued cache of studio recordings by the classic John Coltrane Quartet, comes to us in this vein: For the last 55 years, a clue to its existence could clearly be heard in the soundtrack to a well-regarded French-Canadian film, which interpolated portions of three separate tracks. But only in recent years have jazz scholars connected the dots, leading to what we have here: a 37-minute album (of sorts) by one of the most compelling bands in jazz history, at an unmistakable apex of cohesion.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, it may be because of the afterglow of Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album, which Impulse! released, to critical acclaim and commercial triumph just last year. The precedent of that album, and what you could call its market validation, surely had something to do with the way that Coltrane's estate and former label have rolled out this one. But it would be foolish to shrug off Blue World as yet more product off the archival assembly line. For any admirer of Coltrane, a saxophonist-composer-bandleader who embodied so much in the 1960s-deep mystery, spiritual fervor, hurtling momentum, searching humility-it's a windfall worth greeting with fresh astonishment, before considering a handful of questions.

So, in that spirit: Blue World offers a glimpse of the John Coltrane Quartet in a state of relaxed assurance, during the same span of time that would yield two landmarks, Crescent and A Love Supreme. Recorded at Van Gelder Studios on June 24, 1964, it's a small assortment of songs from earlier in Coltrane's career, refashioned by the evolving language of the band. And to a man-Coltrane on tenor saxophone, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, Elvin Jones on drums-these musicians seem almost to luxuriate in the dark modal hum and polyrhythmic pull that had already become their trademark. They sound unburdened, as if they have no agenda to advance, and nothing to prove.

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