"Giant Steps" was written by John William Coltrane (1926-1967), "Trane" for the friends, virtuoso player of the tenor, soprano, and alto saxophones, and flute (as a child he played the clarinet), best known for his experimentation that had him labeled eccentric, unorthodox, and even unmusical (in 1961 he began a series of recordings at the Village Vanguard that were often called "anti-jazz"—to try to counter the criticism he recorded in a quartet with Duke Ellington).
Recorded in 1959 (released in 1960), this is the first album comprised entirely of Coltrane originals. Coltrane jams fast and furious, dancing up and down the scales. Coltrane is extremely academic in his playing, and even named the album and title track after the musical theory behind the Paul Chambers' bass line. But don't let the academia scare you. You really don't need to know a thing about theory to enjoy Coltrane's playing. Giant Steps is really a traditional four-piece jazz band album, consisting of tenor sax, piano, bass, and drums. Most of the album is upbeat with the exception of the pretty ballad for his wife titled "Naima". What makes this album stand out is one of the most influential and best saxophonists of all time.—John Metzger, The Music Box, 1995
Coltrane began his jazz career with King Kolax (1912-1991), but left in 1947 to play with Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson (1917-1988); his first big gig was with the Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993) Big Band in 1949. He played with several different groups after leaving Gilllespie including Gay Crosse in 1952, Earl Bostic (1913-1965) in 1952, Johnny Hodges (1907-1970) in 1953-54, and Jimmy Smith in 1955. In 1955 Miles Davis (1926-1991) started a quintet and Coltrane came on to play tenor, until 1957 when he was fired for his heroin addiction. He went to New York to play at New York's Five Spot with Thelonious Monk (1917-1982). He then rejoined Miles Davis in 1958, until 1960 when he began his own quartet (McCoy Tyner on piano, Elvin Jones on drums, and Reggie Workman on bass—a year later the band was joined by Eric Dolphy). By 1967 he was truly overworked: he would practice ten to twelve hours a day, besides a number of performances that included a tour of Japan during the summer. It was just after returning from Japan that he died prematurely on July 17, 1967: the cause of death was liver cancer, but it was probably a combination of overworking and alcohol.
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