The artistic prowess of saxophonist John Coltrane was so expansive and influential - even in his own short lifetime, let alone in the decades since his death - that it's difficult to quantify or differentiate his significance as a leader, a collaborator, a sideman or any other role in the jazz idiom. What's certain, though, is that some of his most pivotal session work took place on the Prestige label in the 1950s.
Interplay, Prestige Records' new 5-CD set, containing early collaborative recordings of the peerless tenor saxophonist and visionary John Coltrane, serves two distinct purposes. The first is to offer an extraordinary collection of music that provides an excellent overview of the modern jazz scene during the fertile 1956-1958 period. The other - and arguably more important purpose to the legions of Coltrane faithful - is its rich delineation of the evolutionary process behind one of the most profoundly important and emotionally compelling artists this planet has ever seen.
When one thinks of altoist/flutist Bud Shank's recordings of the 1950s, it is normally of his work with Stan Kenton's orchestra or collaborations with Laurindo Almeida or Bob Cooper. However, Shank led a superior quartet from 1956-1958 that also included pianist Claude Williamson, bassist Don Prell, and either Chuck Flores or Jimmy Pratt on drums. This typically magnificent five-CD limited-edition box set from Mosaic has the quartet's four albums (including a set that was recorded in Johannesburg, South Africa), a selection by Shank with a sextet that includes vibraphonist Larry Bunker, and three slightly later sets.