Coltrane for Lovers

Coltrane for Lovers
Coltrane for Lovers
Compilation album by John Coltrane
Released January 23, 2001
Recorded 1961–1963
Van Gelder Recording Studio
(Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey)
Genre Jazz, hard bop
Length 50:53
Label Impulse!/Verve
314 549 361-2
Producer Bob Thiele, Rudy Van Gelder, Richard Seidel (compilation)
John Coltrane chronology
Ken Burns Jazz
Coltrane for Lovers
The Very Best of John Coltrane

Coltrane for Lovers is a posthumous compilation album by American jazz musician John Coltrane, released January 23, 2001 on Impulse! Records in the United States. Its recordings were recorded during December 1961 to April 1963 at engineer Rudy Van Gelder's recording studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. The first in the Verve for Lovers series by Verve Records, the album contains eleven of Coltrane's romantic ballads recorded during his early years with Impulse! Records. The songs feature back up Coltrane's classic quartet and collaborations with vocalist Johnny Hartman and pianist Duke Ellington.

The recordings compiled for Coltrane for Lovers initially received criticism for Coltrane's stylistic move from complex jazz compositions of the free jazz form to a simplistic formula of ballads and blues. Following the initial controversy, the album's recordings gained a legacy as one of Coltrane's most popular recordings and significant in the genre of romantic jazz. The tracks were compiled by producer Richard Seidel and digitally remastered by engineer Allan Tucker at Foothill Digital, New York City.

The album was issued thirty-three years following John Coltrane's death and nearly 40 years after the original recording dates. Coltrane for Lovers peaked at number 5 on the Top Jazz Albums chart and received generally positive reviews from most music critics, despite some criticism from writers who viewed it as a cash-in compilation from the release's label, Verve. The album was later compiled, along with other For Lovers titles, onto the box set The Complete Verve for Lovers Collection, which was released exclusively on on November 14, 2006.



Shortly before completing his contract with Atlantic in May 1961, John Coltrane joined the newly formed Impulse! label, with whom the "Classic Quartet" would record. It is generally assumed that the clinching reason Coltrane signed with Impulse! was that it would enable him to work again with recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder,[1] who had taped his Prestige sessions, as well as Blue Train.[2] It was at Van Gelder's new studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey that Coltrane would record most of his records for the label.[3]

During this period of Coltrane's recording career, critics and fans were fiercely divided in their estimation of Coltrane, who had radically altered his style from bebop to the modal and free jazz styles, as featured on Coltrane, his first studio project for the Impulse! label. John Tynan of Down Beat magazine went so far as to call his playing "anti-jazz."[4] In the midst of this controversy, Coltrane decided to release his next three albums in order to improve the critical perception of him.[5] In an interview with music journalist Gene Lees, Coltrane was asked of his musical and stylistic change from modal and free jazz to more simplistic forms and standards. He responded by stating "Variety".[6]

John Coltrane's primary record producer Bob Thiele, who had worked with Coltrane on his previous albums Live! at the Village Vanguard (1961) and his Impulse! label debut, the self-titled Coltrane (1962), acknowledged that the next three Coltrane albums to be released were to be recorded at his behest and as ballad-themed to quiet the negative criticism of Coltrane's more diverse playing.[7] The material chosen for Coltrane's next records would be suited for more slow-tempo, smooth and romantic playing, in contrast to Coltrane's forceful, aggressive style that had dominated his previously issued recordings, and which had led to reviewers describing his playing as "angry".[7] The recordings featured on Coltrane for Lovers were recorded between December 1961 and April 1963, during his early years with Impulse! Records.[7] at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.[8]


Could Coltrane play the blues? Yes. Could he play a ballad? Yes.

Art Farmer, NPR interview[9]

The music that would later be compiled for Coltrane for Lovers would feature Coltrane departing from the free jazz and experimental tendencies of his previous recordings, which were the cause of the jazz community's mixed perception of Coltrane. As producer Bob Thiele had intended, the next of Coltrane's releases featured the hard bop form of playing, incorporating influences from rhythm and blues, gospel music, and the blues, especially with the saxophone and piano, and straght-ahead ballads and standards.[1] The Ballads LP, recorded in late 1961 and 1962, was at first criticized as predictable and too simple after the aggressiveness Coltrane displayed on his previous recordings, but was later reevaluated favorably,[10] by some as a masterpiece.[11] On the next album, Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, Ellington "sat in" with the John Coltrane Quartet for a set dominated by the pianist's songs. Some performances had his usual sidemen, bassist Aaron Bell and drummer Sam Woodyard, replacing Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones in the group.[12]

Recording for the collaboration LP John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman (1963) found the "classic quartet" backing up smooth torch singer Hartman on ballad standards.[5] Rolling Stone magazine later described the album as " of Coltrane's least innovative records, but impeccably dignified and elegant",[5] and music critic Richard S. Ginell commented by saying that "Coltrane's eloquence and the warm, masculine baritone of Hartman can still break your heart."[13] Renowned writer and poet Al Young wrote of the album's most well-known recording, "My One and Only Love", and interpretation of the song by Coltrane and Hartman:

Without using words, great jazz interpreters make you feel the emotions that linger in the words and quiver between the words to the songs they perform. If, for example, you know the lyric to Robert Mellin and Guy Wood's "My One and Only Love", you dissolve at once into the undulant sea of John Coltrane's poetic paraphrase of that unremitting declaration of love... With the husky yet tender voice of Trane's tenor saxophone backing you, the very thought of you lover makes your heart sing like that April breeze on the wings of spring. You have no trouble picturing the splendor of it; the shadows that fall in the hush of night; and arms, those knowing arms and lips so tender, so warm that the heavenly touching of hands can only lead to sweet surrender.[9]
—Al Young

Shortly after the release of his ballad-oriented albums, Coltrane would return to a more experimental phase, recording Impressions (1963) and his magnum opus A Love Supreme (1965). In spite of this, the previous serious of ballad-oriented recordings served in helping increase Coltrane's legacy and influence on romantic jazz.[14]


Commercial performance

Compiling eleven of the recordings from this period seen best fit for a romance-themed compilation, Coltrane for Lovers was issued by the Verve Music Group, the current distributing label of Impulse!, released January 23, 2001 in the United States.[15][16] Thirty-three years after Coltrane's death and nearly 40 years after the original recording dates, the album entered the Top Jazz Albums chart on February 10, 2001 and peaked at number 5.[17] It remained on the chart for eighty-three weeks, until February 1, 2003, nearly two years after entering the chart.[16]

Critical response

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[7] (favorable)[18]
The New York Times (favorable)[19]
Penguin Guide to Jazz 3/4 stars[20]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[21]

Upon its release, Coltrane for Lovers was well-received by most music critics. Allmusic editor Alex Henderson described the album as "an excellent collection that has no problem reminding us just how warm and expressive his ballad playing could be."[7] After discussing how Coltrane's ballad-playing has been undervalued in comparison to his more experimental recordings, in a December 21, 2001 article for The New York Times, writer Ben Ratliff wrote that "This collection ... presents all the argument you need."[19] Some, however, have criticized the album and Verve negatively for repackaging Coltrane material for an unnecessary cash-in compilation.[15][22] In The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, Richard Cook and Brian Morton gave the album one out of four stars and commented, 'Oh, for goodness' sake! We're tempted to tell you that this contains a previously unreleased rehearsal of Ascension, which we have long regarded as excellent make-out music, but it does not. Needless to say, the music is fine ... It's the concept we have problems with. Avoid.'[23]

In a 2007 interview for Esquire magazine, author and Coltrane biographer Ben Ratliff explained his view on the importance of Coltrane's music and balladry, stating "His work contains most of the well-known ideals of jazz... If you're interested in improvisation, this guy pushed improvisation to the wall. He was the best blues player of his time. He wrote and played incredible ballads. Record companies are still putting out compilations of Coltrane ballads called Coltrane for Lovers or whatever. You can poke fun at the idea, but if you ever listen to one, they're indescribably beautiful."[24] The recordings compiled for Coltrane for Lovers have endured a legacy as one of Coltrane's best performing and interpreting of ballads and standards.[9] In a September 2000 essay on the recordings, writer Al Young elaborated on John Coltrane's ability during the period of recording the compiled jazz ballads, writing that "The rapport between performer and audience smooths and deepens when a player of John Coltrane's caliber breathes personal expression into some aspect of a song's lyric or meaning."[9] Young continued in his review of the album, stating:

Jazz soloists are always expected to meet listener expectations. "You tell your story" is how twentieth-century soloists described the way they had their way with a song, as it were. They interpret, they embellish, and they set or induce a mood. Not only are musicians expected to coax personal meaning from songs... we generally expect them to know the lyrics ... For Coltrane, blues and ballads were anything but separate; each told a story. And he was a superb teller of love stories. Listen to the glistening tenderness of his delivery ... Coltrane for Lovers contains some of the most romantic and popular music ever recorded. Revered by musicians, critics, and music fans alike, John Coltrane set the standard for ballads.[9]
—Al Young

The album served as the first of several other For Lovers compilations that the Verve label would later issue, including recordings by Sarah Vaughan, Chet Baker, and Charlie Parker.[25] A similar compilation, entitled Plays for Lovers, was released by Prestige in 2003.[26] Another Verve compilation of Coltrane ballads, entitled More Coltrane for Lovers, followed in 2005.[27] Coltrane for Lovers was later compiled, along with other For Lovers titles, onto the box set The Complete Verve for Lovers Collection, released exclusively on on November 14, 2006.[28]

Track listing

All tracks have John Coltrane playing tenor saxophone.[29]

Track Recorded Song Title Writer(s) Time
1. 3/07/63 My One and Only Love d Guy Wood, Robert Mellin 4:57
2. 9/13/62 Too Young to Go Steady c Harold Adamson, Jimmy McHugh 4:24
3. 9/26/62 In a Sentimental Mood b Duke Ellington 4:18
4. 12/21/61 It's Easy to Remember c Richard Rogers, Lorenz Hart 2:50
5. 3/07/63 Dedicated to You d Sammy Cahn, Saul Chaplin, Hy Zaret 5:32
6. 9/13/62 You Don't Know What Love Is c Gene DePaul, Don Raye 5:16
7. 4/29/63 After the Rain e John Coltrane 4:13
8. 9/26/62 My Little Brown Book b Billy Strayhorn 5:26
9. 6/19/62 Soul Eyes a Mal Waldron 5:26
10. 3/07/63 They Say It's Wonderful d Irving Berlin 5:22
11. 9/18/62 Nancy (With the Laughing Face) c Jimmy Van Heusen, Phil Silvers 3:17
Track sources

Chart history

Billboard Music Charts (North America) – Coltrane for Lovers

  • 2001: Top Jazz Albums – #5 (83 weeks)[16]




  • Pamala Cestero – research
  • GrowingStudio, Bklyn – design
  • Amelie Hazard – illustrations, cover art
  • Carlos Kase – research coordination
  • Peter Keepnews – note editing
  • Hollis King – art direction
  • Bryan Koniarz – production coordination
  • Renee Rosnes – sequencing
  • Richard Seidel – compilation producer
  • Sherniece Smith – art production
  • Chuck Stewart – photography
  • Bob Thiele – original producer
  • Allan Tucker – remastering
  • Rudy Van Gelder – original engineer
  • Al Young – liner notes


  1. ^ a b Porter 1999, pp. 197-198.
  2. ^ "NEA Jazz Masters: RVG". National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  3. ^ "John Coltrane Discography – session index". Jazz Discography Project. Retrieved 2008-08-11. 
  4. ^ "Down Beat - Coltrane and Dolphy answer critics". Maher Publications. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  5. ^ a b c "John Coltrane biography". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on June 18, 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  6. ^ "Coltrane – Ballads – Impulse!". Verve Music Group. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Henderson, Alex. Review: Coltrane for Lovers. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2009-07-19.
  8. ^ Al Young (2001). Coltrane for Lovers album liner notes. The Verve Music Group, a Division of UMG Recordings, Inc.. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Young (2001), pp. 6-7.
  10. ^ "Ballads > Overview". All Media Guide, LLC.. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  11. ^ " – Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane". All About Jazz. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  12. ^ "Review: Duke Ellington & John Coltrane". All Media Guide, LLC.. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  13. ^ "Jazz Standards – My One and Only Love: CD Recommendations for This Tune". Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  14. ^ Porter 1999, pp. 224-226.
  15. ^ a b "Verve Music Group – Coltrane for Lovers". Verve Music Group. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  16. ^ a b c "Billboard Music Charts – Search Results – Coltrane for Lovers". Nielsen Business Media, Inc.. Retrieved 2008-07-15. [dead link]
  17. ^ "Coltrane for Lovers > Charts and Awards". All Media Guide, LLC.. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  18. ^ Broomer, Stuart. Review: Coltrane for Lovers. Retrieved on 2009-07-19.
  19. ^ a b Ratliff, Ben. Review: Coltrane for Lovers. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2009-07-19.
  20. ^ Cook, Richard. "Review: Coltrane for Lovers". The Penguin Guide to Jazz: 320. September 2002.
  21. ^ Hoard, Christian. "Review: Coltrane for Lovers". Rolling Stone: 183. November 2, 2004.
  22. ^ "John Coltrane; Live Trane". Jazzitude, Marshall Bowden. Archived from the original on June 01, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  23. ^ Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 7th edn (London: Penguin, 2004), p. 343.
  24. ^ "John Coltrane Biography – Esquire". Hearst Communications, Inc.. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  25. ^ "Verve Music Group – Series". Verve Music Group. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  26. ^ "John Coltrane > Discography > Compilations". All Media Guide, LLC.. Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
  27. ^ "Verve Music Group – More Coltrane for Lovers". Verve Music Group. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  28. ^ Product Page: The Complete Verve For Lovers Collection. Retrieved on 2008-08-15.
  29. ^ Track listing and credits as per liner notes for Coltrane for Lovers album


  • Al Young (2001). Coltrane for Lovers album liner notes. The Verve Music Group, a Division of UMG Recordings, Inc.. 
  • Porter, Lewis (1999). John Coltrane: His Life and Music. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 047208643X. 
  • Nathan Brackett, Christian Hoard (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. excerpt by Douglas Wolk. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-743-20169-8. 
  • Richard Cook, Brian Morton (2002). The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD‎. Edition 6. Penguin. ISBN 0140515216. 

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