John Coltrane’s Both Directions at Once is a complete, lost album that the John Coltrane Quartet recorded on 6 March 1963. The record never appeared because it was considered to be not commercial enough at the time. A day later the same quartet shared the studio with singer Johnny Hodges and that more mainstream jazz music was released as a vinyl record. Producer Rudy van Gelder always used an extra session tape as a gift for the artist. This recording ended up in the house of Coltrane’s first wife Juanita Naima Coltrane. Recently it was rediscovered between her belongings.
Now, 55 years later, the value of this music is much greater. Coltrane, who died in 1967, is now considered to be the legendary founder of free jazz. Since seperating from Miles Davis in the early sixties, he experimented with new musical forms, that resulted in his masterpiece A Love Supreme in 1965. What makes this rediscovered tape so interesting is that the line-up is the same as that of A Love Supreme. Drummer Elvin Jones, Bassist Jimmy Garrisson, pianist McCoy Tyner and band leader Coltrane were deeply rooted in the blues- and bebop tradition, but they were clearly looking for new directions. The improvisations are exciting, but in the core they still sound traditional and recognizable. Coltrane’s classic quartet had one foot in the past and one foot in the future.
Yet Both Directions at Once is more than merely interesting study material. Two untitled compositions had been unknown so far (even so unknown that nobody knows who wrote them), other pieces are played differently from those on existing albums. For example, the rendition of ‘Nature Boy’ is beautiful: Coltrane does little more than playing the melody; the surprising element is its polyrhythmic bass and drums accompaniment. This album was recorded in a period when the band performed for two weeks in the New York jazz club Birdland and the pieces have the spontaneity of a live performance. From a musical point of view Both Directions at Once is absolutely fascinating, although the greatest excitement lies in the fact that this album has finally been discovered.
Both Directions at Once: the Lost Album
John Coltrane – Verve