Show #47: John Coltrane's Timeless Ballad "Naima"

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John Coltrane recorded his classic ballad “Naima” on his 1959 album Giant Steps. He named the song after his first wife, Juanita Naima Grubbs (quite a combo of names). The song has been covered countless times; my recorded show features eight different versions.

It uses a variety of chords over a bass note, as well as a number of modes: dorian, mixolydian, phrygian, lydian, and so on. “Naima” was a staple of Coltrane’s live concerts from 1959 until 1966, when he returned to the Village Vanguard to do an incendiary version with his new saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and Alice Coltrane, as well as his longtime bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Rashid Ali. A recent Pablo recording has Coltrane doing a great version in Europe in 1963.

We start with the original version, then launch into a lovely chamberistic version by violinist Meg Okura. A now-rare 1962 recording of the French vocal group Les Double Six de Paris follows. A guitar duo version follows on a Columbia side with John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana. After that it’s a 1977 Japanese LP featuring The Great Jazz Trio, made up of jazz heavyweights: pianist Hank Jones, bassist Ron Carter, and the late Tony Williams–Carter and Williams held down the bass and drum chairs for Miles Davis’ famous quintet.

Karrin Allyson does an interesting vocal version, Toronto bassist Roberto Occhipinti turns in another chamberistic rendition, and we finish with the string quartet known as the Turtle Island Quartet, from their Coltrane tribute album.

A past post features interesting video content for some of these covers; click here to view.

I will never get sick of this timeless ballad. I hope eight versions of it doesn’t become tiresome for any of you.


Rhythm Planet Playlist: 3/21/14

  1. John Coltrane / Naima / Giant Steps / Atlantic
  2. Med Okura & The Pan Asian Chamber / Naima / Naima / Megumi Okura
  3. Les Double Six De Paris / Naima / Les Double Six / Open
  4. Carlos Santana & Mahavishnu John McLaughlin / Naima / Love, Devotion, Surrender / Columbia
  5. The Great Jazz Trio / Naima / At The Village Vanguard / Eastwind
  6. Karrin Allyson / Naima / Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane / Concord Records
  7. Roberto Occhipinti / Naima / The Bend In The River / Aima Records
  8. Turtle Island Quartet / Naima / A Love Supreme: The Legacy Of John Coltrane / Telarc

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