Mosaic Records is a company that produces amazing box set reissues under the watchful eye of jazz curator and “spelunker” Michael Cuscuna, who goes deep into the record company jazz vaults to recover buried treasures and share them with other jazz fans. Thanks to a tip on Mosaic’s blog, I learned the origins of a seminal John Coltrane recording, one that started me on a jazz journey (perhaps obsession is a better word) back in my high school days.
I always thought of Morton Gould (American, 1913-1996) as a composer and conductor of light classics for popular audiences. He also conducted national radio broadcasts in the 1940s and 1950s, and as such was well known to American listeners. I had no idea one of his works was embraced by an iconic jazz musician and musical explorer.
Gould wrote a piece called American Symphonette in the early 1940s, and there was a passage in it called “Pavanne” that jazz musicians loved. Glenn Miller, Jimmy Lunceford, and others recorded it. Coltrane heard it as well and used its theme as a springboard to his famous 1961 recording, Impressions, which became part of his standard repertoire at live gigs until his untimely death in July 1967.
Dr. Lewis Porter, a musicologist who teaches at Rutgers University and who authored the definitive biography of John Coltrane, tells us in a two-part blog post/audio recording about the inspiration behind Coltrane’s recording, and also sheds light on how other jazz musicians and orchestras embraced the Gould “Pavanne.” Read/listen to Porter’s part one post here and part two here. It’s fascinating to hear the clips. I had no idea about the connection between Coltrane and Morton Gould. As they say, you’re never too old to learn. Can you hear the connection?