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PBN 123: Equinox

Listen or Download the MP3. 61 minutes. 128 Kbps.
View or Download the playlist.

Playlist:

Clutch – Wicker
A Winged Victory for the Sullen – Every Solstice & Equinox
Black Light White Light – Solstice
Valley of the Sun – Solstice
If These Trees Could Talk – Solstice
James Carter – Equinox (John Coltrane)
Hoodoo Gurus – Bittersweet
Pinkshinyultrablast – Glow Vastly
Vast – Thrown Away
Psychlona – Gasoline
The Freeks – Before
The Freeks – Big Black Chunk
Stonerror – Red Tank
The Atomic Bitchwax – Ice Pick Freek
Miss Lava – Murder of Crows

Notes:

Equinox is one of my favorite John Coltrane compositions. Its simple minor-key melody and basic twelve-bar blues structure make it easy for almost anyone to pick up and play. Trane composed quite a few numbers like this that were practically beginner-level blues tunes with charts so easy that even I can follow them. Other examples that quickly come to mind are Mr. P.C. and Cousin Mary from the “Giant Steps” album, and the Mongo Santamaria composition Afro Blue. In concert, Trane and his bandmates tended to treat simple songs like a spaceship treats a launchpad: as a starting point for greater explorations.

Some of my favorite interpretations of Equinox are the rock version from Clutch, the piano-heavy version from Red Garland (who recorded many times with Trane, beginning with their tenure in the Miles Davis Quintet), and the delicate original version from the John Coltrane Quartet.

This playlist features a true gem from James Carter’s 1994 album Jurassic Classics. In addition to the beautiful arrangement, Carter summons an incredible array of sounds and tonalities from his horn—the kind of array that I used to spend anywhere from hours to years trying to achieve with various electronic “effects” during the two decades when I was obsessed with playing guitar. But Carter doesn’t need any effects pedals, effects boards, or studio wizardry to create a monumental tribute to one of the most innovative and influential horn players of the twentieth century, and to take a very simple tune and create something absolutely new with it.

Supported by a solid rhythm section and beautiful, harmonically complex piano work from Craig Taborn, Carter breathes new life into the tune like it is being played for the very first time—not an easy thing to do when the guy who used to play it was John Coltrane.

Making a jazz tune the centerpiece of a playlist full of heavy rock might seem like an odd choice, but if you listen closely to Carter’s interpretation of this classic, then you might agree with me that it blazes with the same kind of intensity that some bands need a stack of fuzz-drenched amplifiers to create; and the wonder of it all is that his band achieves such energy with only acoustic instruments.

For more expeditions into what I consider awesome music, see the PBN Page.