Q (10/95, p.137) - 4 Stars - Excellent - "...a hard, unfaltering attack and furiously intense, extended improvisations that bordered on free-jazz. BALLADS was a timely reminder of the tenor saxophonist's matchless lyricism and exquisite tone..."
Down Beat (11/95, p.73) - 4 Stars - Very Good - "...BALLADS...has always been about the celebration of pitch and melody. The band...hadn't played any of the tunes prior, but its proficiency leaned toward perfection."
Before this ballad album was released, John Coltrane's critics and jazz fans classed him as an 'avant-gardist', a modernist, an angry, wild young man who made his tenor saxophone scream out. Tongues wagged that free jazz could be made by just anyone who hung a horn around his neck.
These eight ballads made people stop and listen with real pleasure. »Have you heard him? He can blow the notes properly, the pianist knows all the harmonies, and the drummer does far more than just bash!« These words were to be heard and read everywhere, in the specialist magazines, and in the jazz clubs from New York to Tokyo.
All the themes are taken from the American Songbook, from musicals, and well-known numbers performed by Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, Ella Fitzgerald and Peggy Lee among others. All of them have been performed time and time again and although the musicians played the themes for the very first time at the recording session, their interpretation was well structured while at the same time fresh and intense. With the exception of just one number, all the titles were a complete success at the very first take; but that is not merely that which underlines the high musical standard of the quartet.
Fans and critics alike have continued to hold this early Impulse production in high esteem to this very day, which is certainly due to the producer Bob Thiele. But a great part of the album's success is also due to the excellent work of the recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder, who has captured the intimate atmosphere with his microphones.
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