John Coltrane – The Complete Sun Ship Session (3LP box set, 180g pressing)

# Vinyl
# Number of Discs: 3
# Format: FLAC
# DR Analysis: DR 12
# Label: Mosaic | MRLP-3005
# Size: 2.41GB (24/96) + 723MB (16/44.1)
# Recovery: 5%
# Scan: yes
# Servers: File Factory

The next in the series of Mosaic boxes. Sorry, no 24/192 this time..
Like the other Mosaic posts, this is a report from black circles..

From the Mosaic Records website:

No other complete session by the classic quartet has survived

Jazz is largely a collaborative art. Louis Armstrong with the Hot Fives, Basie with the All-American Rhythm Section, Davis with the Original Quintet with Coltrane and Philly Joe Jones-the music has been defined not just by the leader, but also by the caliber of the musicians in his group. For Coltrane the Classic Quartet was the foundation for masterpieces like Sun Ship that reshaped jazz of the sixties and seventies. “It’s a funny thing”, Tyner noted in a 1978 interview. “The John Coltrane Quartet was actually four elements. We had one guy who led the whole team, but it was really a compounding of personalities, like four personalities contributing.”

The Classic Quartet mirrors Coltrane, whose deep roots in the mainstream of jazz supported branches reaching far above his contemporaries. They created a unique sound, an instantly recognizable approach that transcended their standard jazz “combo’ format. They were capable of near-telepathic interaction and split-second reactions that freed the music to surpass the predictable. “With John we could come in, he would give us two notes and we could play a whole composition on two notes,” Tyner recalled in that interview. “Sometimes he wouldn’t bring in a tune, he’d bring in a scale, and we’d play the scale and everything would be right there. We were familiar with each other, the musicianship was high.”

“When you’re a part of something like that”, Tyner went on, “you can’t really ascertain how strong it is. We knew that we were doing something different, that it was fresh, timely. We knew that it had come from something that had happened before. At the same time, you’re swept up in that force-you’re not cognizant of how different it is. When something is good, timely, it has lasting quality.” The strength of that force, the depth of that quality, is clearly evident in the Sun Ship session. And these last sessions offer fascinating documentation of the Classic Quartet evolving to keep pace with the growing changes in Coltrane’s approach to the music. Only two more Quartet recordings would follow, First Meditations a week later and a single version of “Joy” from September 22.

…”Alternate takes”, “previously unissued”, “newly discovered”–these phrases are magic for jazz aficionados. Jazz prizes change, creativity and innovation. Its masters rarely play anything the same way twice, and alternate takes–complete or incomplete recordings from a recording session which were not initially selected for release-let us hear music we know well as if performed for the first time.

When the alternate takes belong to an artist of the stature of John Coltrane, the pleasure of rediscovery is that much greater. Nearly a half-century after his death Coltrane continues to influence and inspire jazz musicians and listeners alike. He changed the music like few before him (and perhaps no one since), yet his career was regrettably short-essentially a dozen
years. While the output from that career is not inconsiderable, it is obviously finite, making such alternate takes that much more valuable.

Sun Ship, recorded August 26, 1965, captures one of the last sessions by the Classic John Coltrane Quartet (Coltrane, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones). It comes at the culmination of a year in which Coltrane arguably reached his creative peak, a year rich in such masterworks. The Sun Ship album, though, was not issued until 1971, one of several Coltrane albums issued by Impulse Records after his death. And Sun Ship was, like many jazz albums, the product of editing between takes, a process overseen by John’s widow Alice.

This Complete Sun Ship Session edition is much more: sourced from newly discovered original reels, the set includes the album’s five original compositions, unedited, in sequence of recording, with all of the takes as they evolved, as well as the surrounding conversations. More than just a sampling of a few alternate takes, the Complete Session offers a rare opportunity to eavesdrop on an iconic master at work. – David Wild, liner notes

John Coltrane’s “Sun Ship” session was recorded at the RCA Recording studio on 24th Street by engineer Bob Simpson who also did superb work with Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, Albert Ayler and others. The original three-track masters with the tenor sax on one track, the piano and bass on another and the drums on the third track were recently discovered, enabling the complete
session to be released for the first time. Kevin Reeves recently remixed the entire session with great sonic results, improving greatly on the original LP mix. Mosaic has remastered them and pressed them on 180-gram vinyl at the renowned Record Technology Inc. plant in Camarillo, California. – Bob Blumenthal, liner notes


Recorded on August 26, 1965 (and not released until after his death), Sun Ship was the final recording by John Coltrane’s quartet with drummer Elvin Jones, pianist McCoy Tyner, and bassist Jimmy Garrison. Pharoah Sanders would join the group the following month, and Tyner and Jones would depart in January of 1966 to be replaced by Alice Coltrane and Rashied Ali. It is also one of the saxophonist’s most intense taped performances. After nearly four years together, this band had achieved a vital collective identity. When Coltrane moved toward metrically free styles of rhythm and melody (with tunes often based on one chord or a short series of notes as themes), the quartet’s rhythmic pulse and collective interplay evolved accordingly. The original album featured edited and sometimes overdubbed performances of its four compositions.

Sun Ship: The Complete Session delivers both complete versions of the album’s performances, but also multiple takes of “Dearly Beloved,” “Attaining,” and the title track. There are inserts where edits and overdubs were clearly made, with studio dialogue, arrangement breakdowns, false starts, etc, plus eight different takes of “Ascent” (including the previously released version) as well as alternate and released takes of “Amen,” and studio conversation. Author David Wild’s detailed liner essay eloquently details the process in the album’s creation and problems encountered, adding a keen insight into Bob Theile’s and Coltrane’s production methods and aesthetics. A set like this is obviously intended for the saxophonist’s devotees, critics, and jazz historians, but even a casual listen offers a fascinating look at how different these sessions were from the final product. – Thom Jurek,

Track Listing:

Side One
01 – Dearly Beloved Takes 1 & 2, false start and alternate version
02 – Dearly Beloved Take 3, breakdown
03 – Dearly Beloved Take 4, released version

Side Two
04 – Attaining Take 1, alternate version
05 – Attaining Take 2, breakdown

Side Three
06 – Attaining Take 3, complete version
07 – Attaining Take 4, insert 1
08 – Sun Ship Take 1, breakdown
09 – Sun Ship Take 2, complete alternate version
10 – Sun Ship Take 3, insert 1

Side Four
11 – Sun Ship Take 4, released version
12 – Studio conversation
13 – Ascent Take 1, released version

Side Five
14 – Ascent Take 2, incomplete version
15 – Ascent Take 3, false starts, incomplete version
16 – Ascent Takes 4-6, inserts/false starts
17 – Ascent Take 7, complete insert 4
18 – Ascent Take 8, complete insert 5

Side Six
19 – Amen Take 1, alternate version
20 – Amen Take 2, released version

Numbered limited edition box set of 3500
Mastered by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Sound & pressed at RTI

Detailed info for the box set can be found here and here.


John Coltrane – tenor saxophone
McCoy Tyner – piano
Jimmy Garrison – bass
Elvin Jones – drums

Ripping Info:

All vinyl is cleaned on a VPI 16.5

Technics SL1200-MK5 (modified)
– Rega RB300 arm with RB700 wiring
– Michell Tecnoweight
– SoundSupports armboard
– Trans-Fi Audio Reso-Mat
Shure V15VxMR (with Jico stylus)
SimAudio Moon 110LP preamp
Native Instruments Audio4DJ USB interface

Processing: Sound Forge 10, ClickRepair (manual mode only)

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6 thoughts on “John Coltrane – The Complete Sun Ship Session (3LP box set, 180g pressing)

  1. Thank you! This is welcomed with much love.

    I would appreciate a Black Circles membership very much, but alas, I’m not a ripper, so I can’t make any contributions.

  2. Very thoughtfully tagged with the respective labels, NightOwl. Sounds great too!

    I think the re-mastering put the emphasis on the horn (understandably, perhaps) but in process the signature “sheets of sound” effect was lost somewhat.

  3. Thank you so much Steve.
    I was just talkin some days ago with S. Murray about the death period of his old bud Albert Ayler… Art is one of the greatest gift Wakan Tanka gave to us.

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