Ranking the 20 Best John Coltrane Albums of All-Time

John Coltrane

John Coltrane was an American composer and jazz saxophonist. In his musical career, he mainly focused on hard bop and bebop in his earlier career. Coltrane helped shape the jazz music industry and has 45 albums under his name. Below is a list ranking his albums from the worst to the best.

20. Lush Life

Lush Life combines different sessions from the 50s. There is also a feature with Arthur Taylor on drums and early May on bass. He works with the trio on the first three tracks, with him being the lead role. ‘Someone In Love’ mainly explores Coltrane’s saxophone and feels it with emotional leads. ‘Lush Life’ is the standout track in the album. Lush Life takes almost a third of the whole album. Billy Strayhorn wrote the entire track and featured a quintet of Red Garland on piano, Albert Heath on drums, Coltrane and Donald Byrd on the trumpets. The track serenades for like 15 minutes with good solo plays from Garland, Byrd, and Coltrane. Another solid album from the jazz legend John Coltrane.

19. Interstellar Space

Interstellar space has a prolonged version of the duet suite recorded by Van Gelder Studio. ‘Offering’ was in the expression album. The initial album had only four tracks: ‘Mars,’ ‘Jupiter,’ ‘Saturn’ and ‘Venus.’ Coltrane added two tracks from their sessions, ‘Jupiter Variation’ and ‘Leo.’ The 2000 CD reissue came with all the tracks aligned. The title ‘interstellar Space’ is fitting to explain Coltrane’s flexibility in both piano and bass. The track names came about to present his interests in astrology. Coltrane valued astrology as a unique system that highly determined human actions. The tracks highlighted majorly Modern physics and the study of Einstein. The rhythmic melody brings one to a world of planets and never-ending stars. Rashid Ali’s rhymes give Coltrane the freeway to bring out his highs on the piano and bass. In ‘Vigil’ and ‘Countdown,’ Coltrane comes in saxophone-drum duets with musical air apart from other albums. Ali, the drummer, brought in a more musical space for the band to explore. The duets on the saxophonist had more musical power and fused well with Ali’s patterns.

18. Coltrane Plays the Blue

Coltrane recorded ‘Coltrane Plays Blue’ in 1960 and released it in 1962. The album is not a blues album but talks of the new music from the Atlantic’s vaults. Atlantic looked to cash in on Coltrane’s fame with the already bought material. On tracks like ‘Blues To You,’ ‘Blues To Elvin’ and ‘Blues To Bechet,’ Coltrane shows his diversity in unique pieces from semitone lower, soprano sax, and semitone higher. Impulse! Played a part in recording ‘Africa/Bass’ before shifting to Verve Records. The initial plan was to have a big 18 and 15 pieces for the Quartet, but Oliver Nelson pulled out at the last minute. This forced Eric Dolphy to work on a makeshift date arrangement. Most of the tracks reflected Coltrane’s new broad scope of international jazz. Coltrane brought Bob Thiele to replace Taylor in tracks like ‘Africa,’ ‘the Damned Don’t Cry,’ and ‘Song of the Underground Railroad.’

17. Crescent

Impulse! Released ‘Crescent’ in 1964 as an-66 and featured McCoy Tyner on piano, Elvin Jones on Drums, Jimmy Garrison on double bass, and Coltrane on the tenor saxophone. Coltrane does not play it solo throughout; the album explores the individual’s strengths to complement Coltrane’s sax abilities. From the opening stages of ‘Crescent,’ Coltrane takes us on a musical journey spread out on the dawn that oversees a dark landscape. The Quartet works on a slow melody on each facet to complement Coltrane’s abilities with the saxophone. Coltrane puts his band in the spotlight on the album’s tail end. Tyner takes center stage on ‘The Drum Thing’ and lives the rest on the backups. The Quartet contributed significantly to the album. They made Coltrane give a slow and enjoyable muse, putting effort into the melodies. The album is another feature of John Coltrane.

16. Coltrane Jazz

After significant success in ‘Giant Steps,’ Coltrane took time to write another jazz album. He called it ‘Coltrane Jazz’ and introduced the new Coltrane Quartet members. The Quartet composed of Steve Davis, Elvin Jones, McCoy, and Tyner all on one track. The first track is a perfect cover of ‘Little Old lady’ by Hoagy Carmichael, moving to a relatively calm and sweeter ending. ‘Village Blues’ came about after a year of the other recording. Coltrane had made a name by producing The Avant-Garde recordings, but he never strayed from his usual standard. ‘Coltrane Jazz’ gave him the perfect platform to footprint his authority in the jazz platform.

15. Soultrane

In 1958, Coltrane recorded eight for his new label. Prestige gave him enough material to release other songs into the Soultrane album. He, however, released it in 1958. He made the initial L.P. that came before his Blue Note session in this album. The session banked mainly on the new Miles Davis. The new group had rhythmic inputs of Art Taylor, Paul Chambers, and Red garland. Coltrane and Garland had formed a unique bond. The new bond created originals and introduced the popular Coltrane theme. Coltrane dropped his usual bop solos on ‘sheets of sound’ and ‘good bait.’ This album brought out Coltrane’s versatility and marked his place. The quality set brought Coltrane’s ability to work with his quartet.

14. Sun Ship

The Quartet released this classic album in 1965. The album entailed Coltrane’s discography with the five tracks. He stuck to tenor soprano in the entire album and was one of the last albums from the band. Coltrane came back to soprano piano while playing ‘My Favorite Things.’ The opening track drops hard lines more open-minded. The second track, ‘Dear Beloved,’ comes with more minor soft tunes reminiscing Trane’s success. Tyner’s piano skills allow Coltrane to cruise into the netherworld and return. Ali on Drums and Alice Coltrane on the piano easily synced into the band’s rhythm. The tracks give Coltrane’s Quartet a space to travel in their sonic constellations preceding Elvin’s drum salvo. Garrison’s bass solo was clear in this album, with Jimmy making little addition to the album. The album brings about the enormous moral and musical change Coltrane had undergone.

13. Kulu Se Mama

Kulu Se Mama has three tracks ‘Kulu Se Mama,’ ‘Welcome,’ and ‘Vigil .’ Coltrane recorded it in 1965 and released it in 1967 January. On this album, the band adopts an eight-piece. ‘Kulu Se Mama’ deviates from the regular horns to drums and percussion. Sanders backs the Quartet up on the sax, Juno lewis on vocals, Donald Garret on bass, and Frank Butler on the drums. Lewis composed the piece and came up with the beats. ‘Vigil’ comes with a saxophone, free rhythm, and drums. The Quartet relied heavily on ‘Happy Birthday To You’ tunes on ‘Welcome.’ The two tracks complimented ‘Kulu Se Mama’ perfectly.

12. Om

After engagements in the 1965 Jazz Workshop, Sanders and Garrett joined the band in recording Om. Coltrane had admired Sanders’s abilities on the saxophone and worked with him–previously while recording Ascension. On this album, they worked on a unique style of music with distinct sounds. The album’s title ‘Om’ is a spiritual figure in Hindu. Coltrane talks of Om as the initial vibration that sets everything in place. The first syllable which a human being makes is Om. The recording begins with percussion before the band recites a line from chapter nine of the Bhagavad Gita. After the chanting slowly dies away, Tyner, Coltrane, and Sanders give beautiful solos. They compare ‘Om’ to the previous album ‘Ascension.’ Ascension had taken over the jazz world with the extraordinary innovation of swirling noise. ‘Om’ leans more on passion and spirituality with energy. The energy makes you listen to the tail-end of the 29-minute album.

11. Stellar Regions

Coltrane recorded the entire session in February 1967, a few months before his death. He brought his wife Alice on the piano, Ali on the drums, Garrison on the bass, and Pharoah Sanders on this album. The album has seven tracks that speak highly about the Quartet’s journey. Alice brought out her A game which left many wondering why she had not featured in the earlier albums. The album gives hints on the things Coltrane had done in the 70s. However, on this album, he opted for a slow and more straightforward style due to deteriorating health. He continuously explored the harmonic aspects but maintained the rhythm. Rashied Ali had mastered the art of free play with melodies; in his mind, Pharoah Sanders’s absence is noticeable. The band missed his incredible solos and control. It partly heeded the tunes and organization to the studio, Impulse. Any Coltrane and spiritual person will appreciate the effort with the casual style. ‘Stellar Regions’ is one of the last projects of John Coltrane and Impulse.

10. Impression

This album comprises studio and concert performances that illustrate Coltrane’s musical strength. Impulse! Record released to the public in 1963. They recorded two tracks in Village vanguard and two at Van Gelder studio. The Quartet incorporated bassist Reggie Workman and saxophonist Eric Dolphy in the two tracks recorded at Village Vanguard. The opening track featured Coltrane’s solo run of 15 minutes. Workman complimented Garrison while on ‘India’ as Dolphy produced a bass solo. Coltrane brought in Roy Haynes to replace Elvin Jones in ‘Dear Stockholm’ and ‘After the Rain.’ The music covers Coltrane’s music and emotional divergence. He swims in the blues, Indian music, and ancient Swedish folk songs.

9. Africa/ Brass

John Coltrane worked on his eighth album with Impulse! Records released it in September 2021. ‘Africa/Brass’ had new additional euphonium sounds and French horns. The latest addition broadened Coltrane’s musical variety. They mainly composed it of unique and fearless music that suited the 60s. Most African countries got their independence in the 60s. Initially, Coltrane had called on Gil Evans to help him work on the album. Evans failed to respond; this prompted him to reach out to Tyner and Dolphy. He went for the traditional ‘Greensleeves’ packed with a variation of ‘My Favorite Things.’ Coltrane and Dolphy worked on Tyner’s Piano skills to produce ‘Blues Minor’ and ‘Africa.’

8. Blue Train

Blue Train encrypts good vibes, with Coltrane blazing as the bandleader. The title track comes out with a unique packaging that begins with Coltrane’s solo. He swiftly changes tune to heading to the Birdland. The other unique and bold tracks in the album are ‘Locomotion’ and ‘Moment’s Notice.’ On ‘Lazy Bird’ and ‘I’m Old fashioned,’ the band seemed a little tired. The album revolves majorly on Philly Joe Jones and Paul Chambers from Miles’ band to work on the drums and bass. A more vibrant Lee Morgan and Kenny Drew also added their expertise to the album. Curtis Fuller comes in with a trombonist and tries to catch up with his mates’ rhythm. The album’s reissue comes with two alternative title tracks.

7. Meditations

The Quartet brings about a unique African rhythm and near-perfect solos from Sanders and Coltrane in this album. However, John plays the original and most memorable parts of his solos living with Sanders to show his chaotic side. The label ‘an extension of A Love Supreme’ comes from the album’s peace and spiritual inclination. Coltrane followed the same noisy and dark music as ‘Om.’ He knew fusing Eastern and African music into his tracks but backed down. He banked on Rashied Ali, Elvin, McCoy, and Garrison to bring incredible sounds. The band added more percussion and post-bop sounds to more perfection. ‘Serenity’ and ‘Love’ have good melodies supported by an astonishing tenor line.

6. Coltrane’s Sound

Coltrane recorded it in 1960 at Atlantic studios but released it after he had left the label. Atlantic released it in 1966 when Coltrane’s fans had embraced ‘Ascension.’ The album featured eight tracks recorded in two sessions in October 1960. The two sessions also produced ‘Coltrane Plays The Blues’ and ‘My Favorite Thing.’ The album’s highlights are ‘Satellite,’ ‘Liberia,’ and ‘equinox.’ Tyner produced a fantastic solo in ‘Equinox’ as Coltrane played on Soprano in ‘Central Park West.’ Coltrane shows his poetry skills in ‘Body and Soul’ and ‘The Night Has A Thousand Eyes,’ which makes everyone attentive.

5. My Favorite Things

John recorded this album in 1969 at Atlantic records but released it a year later. He released it after ‘Giant Steps’ and ‘Coltrane jazz.’ The tracks are not his composition, but many jazz fans appreciated them. Coltrane left bebop jazz for modal and gained new followers. ‘My Favorite Things’ is one of his most sold albums. McCoy Tyner appeared first on the piano to work alongside Elvin Jones and Steve Davis. The album entails four remakes of ‘But Not For Me,’ ‘Summertime,’ ‘Every time we say goodbye,’ and ‘Favorite Things.’ Coltrane works on a soprano that Miles Davis gifted him. He works on it better and emerges as the album’s most loved piece. ‘My Favorite Things’ is the title track that Coltrane does justice with solo flies in and out.

4. First Meditation

John Coltrane recorded ‘First Meditation’ in 1965 and released it in 1977. This album was the quartet input of ‘Meditation.’ This version had the added information of Rashied Ali on the drums and Pharoah Sanders on the tenor saxophone. Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones were on the bass and drums, respectively. The album also had a version of ‘Joy’ recorded in 1965. ‘Joy’ was the last track the Quartet worked on before McCoy Turner left to form his band. Jones retired in January to join Duke Ellington.

3. Giant Steps

‘Giant Steps’ was the first album that Coltrane had released as the bandleader. The album has been so successful that they used most tracks as practice templates. Coltrane did a lot of modifications that later took up his name. Melodic writing renamed sheets of sound, and third-relayed movements are known as Coltrane changes. He also named most of the tracks after people that he valued. ‘Syeeda’s Song Flute’ and ‘Naima’ are named after his wife and adopted daughter, respectively. ‘Cousin Mary’ is named after his cousin, Mary Lyerly and ‘M.R. P.C.’ took the initials of bassist Paul Chambers.

2. Ascension

‘Ascension’ came into being after Coltrane had released ‘A Love Supreme.’ During this time, he had gained a massive following. He now wanted to produce more free jazz and thus befriended Albert Ayler. He wanted to be a father figure to the younger jazz enthusiasts. They describe ‘Ascension’ as ‘free Jazz’ because it provides a new extensive improvisation to the rhythm. T lines are open-minded and direct. The title track opens up with an acknowledgment quote from ‘A Love Supreme.’ On the quote, the band players work on a theme. The band relied on five saxophones, a four-piece rhythm, and two trumpets for their fantastic music set.

1. A Love Supreme

John recorded this album in one session in December 1994 at van Gelder Studio. It has become his best selling album. On this album, he worked with Tiner, Jones, and Garrison. They divided the album into four parts; ‘Acknowledgment,’ ‘Resolution,’ ‘Psalm,’ and ‘Pursuance.’ Coltrane drew his inspiration from the pursuance of purity, talent acknowledgment, and gratitude. The album begins with a gong on the first track, ‘Acknowledgement,’ as Garrison comes in with double bass. Coltrane then drops with a solo. There are so many albums by John Coltrane, but ‘A Love Supreme’ stands out because of its emotional and noble intention. The album provides powerful lyrics that do not divert from the primary goal.

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