Weekend Extra: Bing And Trane

Crosby, Bing_01I don’t know whetherColtrane facing left “Love Thy Neighbor” is the most unlikely song John Coltrane ever recorded, but his 1958 version is one of the most delightful. Mack Gordon and Harry Revel wrote it for the 1934 movie We’re Not Dressing, a classic of the shipwreck survivor genre. Bing Crosby sang it beautifully in a contrived sequence that also involved Carole Lombard, Ethel Merman and Leon Errol. Listen to Crosby’s bluesy phrasing and inflection in the verse. He was, after all, a friend of Bix Beiderbecke and Louis Armstrong.

When Coltrane and pianist Red Garland grew up, the Great American Songbook was not a museum collection. It was woven into the popular culture. They heard wonderful songs like “Love Thy Neighbor” on the radio and on jukeboxes. It was natural for Coltrane to bring them into his repertoire even as he was developing what Ira Gitler indelibly labeled Trane’s “sheets of sound” approach. The trumpeter is the nearly forgotten melodist Wilbur Harden. Paul Chambers is the bassist, Jimmy Cobb the drummer in this 1958 recording.

Happy Sunday

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  1. Syd Potter says

    Odd…this is Donald Byrd on the photo sequence whereas the trumpeter (flugel) on the audio track is the late Wilbur Harden, both excellent bop brass players. And isn’t that Bud Powell in the next photo sequence? At least they got the right bassist, although I am not sure that is Jimmy Cobb on drums…to my ear it sounds more the great drummer Art Taylor…I could be wrong, of course (but not about the trumpeters!!!). Thanks for posting.

    • Doug Ramsey says

      Your photo IDs are correct, Syd. Evidently, no one, including YouTube, expects accuracy when it comes to still photos in YouTube posts. Taylor was on several of Coltrane’s 1958 sessions, but the Prestige discography identifies Cobb on this July 11 date.

  2. Mike Harris says

    For me, this 1958 period was Coltrane at his peak—the earlier ideas consolidated and extended, and the later, fully-realized “sheets of sound” not yet obliterating the true promise of his talent.

    • Terence Smith says

      Mike Harris,

      Yes, the 1958 period seems to me too like the consolidation and most beautiful period of Coltrane. Although I think that both of us would stretch that apex period of Coltrane into at least the spring of 1959, to include the profundities on Kind of Blue.

      And we aren’t the only ones who feel that way. John Coltrane just might have felt the same way, to hear Red Garland tell it.

      In a 1978 interview with Len Lyons (quoted in Lyons’ The Great Jazz Pianists), Red Garland stated that he didn’t like fusion music that sounds like it’s “on one chord all the time.” When Lyons responded that “Coltrane used to play on one chord, too,” Red Garland responds with a very interesting story:

      “I know, and I used to get down on him ( Coltrane) about it. I’ll tell you a story that’s never been printed before. One night I went down to the club where Coltrane was playing, and he came off the bandstand , and the first thing he said was, “Red, let’s go to the side bar and have a cheap one”…..So we sat down, and the first thing I said to him was, “Trane, do you dig what you’re doing? Do you have faith in it?” See, this new style of playing he was into wasn’t the John William I knew. So he dropped his head like a shy kid and he said, “Sort of, sort of. But I got myself out here, and if I turned back and started to play the way I used to play, people would think I was a phony. I’d lay a lot of cats right out because they’ve been following me.” I said, “Then you don’t really have faith in what you’re doing.” And he looked at me and said, “Sort of…sort of.” Anyway, I (Garland) didn’t dig Trane’s music after that because he was just running up and down the horn, and it didn’t mean anything to me.”

    • Terence Smith says


      The Lyons INTERVIEW took place in 1978. Coltrane, of course, died in 1967. Garland is reminiscing, describing going to hear Coltrane in the early 1960s, although he does not give the year. Nor does he state specifically that the quartet with Tyner, Elvin, and Garrison was the group he had gone out to hear when they had the conversation Garland described. But I imagine that was the period. Lyons does not list the exact dates of the interviews in the book. But in his introduction to the Garland interview (p.145), he describes the interview as taking place backstage at San Francisco’s Keystone Korner, during what Lyons describes as Garland’s “comeback performance at the Keystone Korner in 1978. It was the first time he had played outside of his hometown of Dallas in fifteen years.”

      I got the book second-hand, like so many other good things. The story is on pp. 148-149, and is even better in its entirety! I “ellipsed” some out, thinking Doug might not be copyright-able to print too long an excerpt. Garland makes interesting comments re: Miles, too.

      BTW, this brings up a great regret/missed opportunity. Sometime in the early 80′s, when I was living in Austin, some musician friends of mine were driving to hear Red Garland at an appearance at the Recovery Room in Dallas, Texas. A 4-hour drive each way. I declined to go because of my job.

      I should have chucked the job and gone to hear Red Garland.

      • David says

        Terrence, You would have walked into a small room where you could barely make out Red, through a thick fog of cigarette smoke, playing a small, rarely tuned, upright piano. Most likely he would have been accompanied by his protege, Marchel Ivery, who, at that time, sounded very much like Trane when he was with Miles. Here’s a second chance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwO_o89wLvk

        • Terence Smith says

          David, thank you so much.

          It’s like a sci-fi time machine plot where I get to go back and partially correct my own past!

          If you ever see the Garland interview in the above -referenced Len Lyons book, you’ll see that you have just demonstrated Red’s excessive modesty when he said a year or so later that he “hadn’t been playing…(mostly) watching TV.” In a rational world, this jam session would have been on, or eclipsed, TV.

          I assume that is Red Garland’s voice encouraging the tenors during the beautiful coda(s). All eras of Coltraneism seem to be invoked by these guys within the 14 minutes, with the full approval, aid and abetment of Red Garland.

          And what a beautiful cohesive trio, with the drummer, Winn, so outstanding. The Miles Davis of 1977 would have been privileged to sit in with these guys!

          And I know that John Coltrane’s approval was and is palpable. Thank you David and thank you, Red Garland and company!

          • David says

            Terence, After reading that excerpt, I put in a request for the book from the local library. I don’t know how much Red was exaggerating but in those days he didn’t even own a piano. Post-Recovery Room, he used to play at another club run by an eccentric jazz fan named Murray. I remember a few occasions when Murray met us at the door after the first set and said, “You may as well go home, Red ain’t playin’ **** tonight.” Of course, we’d go in anyway and Red would be sounding fine as usual. I figure it probably took him one set to warm up.

          • Terence Smith says


            I think you will find the 6-page Red Garland interview packed with interesting stuff, including:

            Overcoming his own “uneven” playing when he’s out of practice: “freezing up” at times; first hearing OF Bud Powell, without having heard his recordings, via Lockjaw Davis, then having Powell sit in at his gig; having Tatum watch over his shoulder, then advice Tatum gave; a very intriguing one-paragraph self-description of the theory behind the block-chord approach he invented, and a variation on it he sometimes throws in; a story about a Dallas club-owner; thoughts on repertoire and the kind of stuff Red thinks goes over with audiences versus the material he prefers to play.

            In a recent column, Doug Ramsey commented that “jazz musicians make good conversationalists.” This is certainly true of Red Garland, which I just found out is even MORE amply demonstrated in a chapter from Doug Ramsey’s book, JAZZ MATTERS. The chapter was once a Texas Monthly article. That chapter sheds light and context on everything Red said in the Len Lyons article, and they should be read together, I think.

            Ironically, JAZZ MATTERS is currently missing from the Austin Library shelf, and they are getting a replacement!

            Again, thank you for directing me to the Recovery Room tapes, David. I will now think of the very last Coltrane period as a kind of coda, kind of like Marchel Ivery’s coda to “MIsty” on your linked recording. Red Garland can be heard yea-saying it like in a Sanctified church. But the coda’s meaning is established by the setting that preceded it.