John Coltrane: Greensleeves

25 Dec

The song Greensleeves can be traced back more than 500 years, got a few mentions in Shakespeare and became a Christmas carol called What Child Is This in the 19th century, with words penned by William Chatterton Dix.

More recently, it made it into the 1962 movie How The West Was Won. That’s a journey of a few centuries and thousands of miles: from Elizabethan England to 20th-century Hollywood.

We can guess that no one made the song — whatever the name or origins — sound like John Coltrane, whose quartet played it on the 1961 album Africa Brass. It’s also included on the live Complete 1961 Village Vanguard recordings.

From Steve Greenlee’s 2007 review, on the latter: “Coltrane’s jukebox-friendly interpretation of the show tune My Favorite Things has always overshadowed his overhaul of the English folk song Greensleeves, also known as the Christmas song What Child Is This? but this is the superior performance. This wasn’t the first time he recorded it, but he really nailed it here. The first few notes out of Coltrane’s sax come crashing down more than an octave as he states the melody once and then sends it caroming all over the place, augmenting its simple beauty with squeals and phrases that seem gorgeously out of place.”

Click the link above to listen.

And Merry Christmas.


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