John Coltrane, Live At Birdland (Impulse)
On this observance of Martin Luther King’s birthday, we recommend an album that John Coltrane made at the height of the 1960s civil rights movement in the southern United States. He wrote “Alabama” following the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church in September, 1963. Four young girls died in the attack by white racists. Dr. King called it, “one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.” “Alabama” is the emotional centerpiece of a major album by Coltrane’s nonpareil quartet with McCoy Tyner, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass; and Elvin Jones, drums. Live At Birdland also contains superior versions of “Afro-Blue,” “I Want To Talk About You,” “The Promise,” “Your Lady” and “Vilia.” Coltrane recorded it during an engagement at the celebrated New York City jazz club Birdland. It is one of the key achievements of his career.