FEATURE: Evan Parker writes about Coltrane in Walthamstow '61 (Vinyl recording to be issued in 2017)

Evan Parker, John Edwards and John Russell in 2016
(performing at the Wild Card Brewery in Walthamstow)

On 17th November 1961, John Coltrane played at the Granada Theatre in Walthamstow, North East London, on a Jazz at the Philharmonic tour organized by Norman Granz. On 23rd November, 55 years later, free jazz legend Evan Parker will be making a recording in the same space, 186 Hoe Street E17 (now Mirth, Marvel & Maud ) with John Russell and John Edwards. The recording will be released on a limited edition vinyl through Byrd Out Limited in Spring 2017. The recording will be a private affair (ie not a ticketed concert). 

This recording has personal resonances for Evan: he attended Coltrane’s performance 55 years ago at the Granada. Evan Parker remembers:


Setting out from Ashford in Middlesex in a battered Ford Popular on a cold day in November 1961 we were going to hear John Coltrane in Walthamstow. A week after the original Live at the Village Vanguard was recorded, Coltrane was starting the first European tour with his own band, a quintet with Eric Dolphy, McCoy Tyner, Reggie Workman and Elvin Jones. Excitement levels were high, but the car quickly showed us why two school boys could afford it. We had clubbed together to buy it a few weeks earlier and had done little more than drive around the neighbourhood. Our plan was that my friend would teach me to drive but somehow that never happened and I have remained a passenger ever since. I think our plan was to get on the North Circular and follow the signs, but the car started to cough and splutter very soon after the start and by the time we got to Acton it breathed its last. Fortunately we were very near Acton Town station and the map showed that we could get to Walthamstow Central by tube. We pushed the car into a side street and lost no time to get on the train.

We got to the cinema to find the first of the two concerts of the evening had begun. Dizzy Gillespie's group with Lalo Schifrin was already playing - but we hadn't missed a note of the Coltrane Quintet. After the first concert we asked the usherette (as they were called) if we could stay in our seats because we had missed the start of the first concert, and it worked. We heard both sets. After it was over we went round the back and looked for a stage door. I remember we took turns to peer through a crack hoping to see the master. We were fairly sure we could see Elvin for a second or two but there was no obvious way to ask for an autograph and we finally gave up and went back across London to the far western suburbs. It seems likely that we heard Coltrane playing on the mouthpiece that he later ruined by trying to adjust it himself. There are things in his playing on Chasing the 'Trane that he never got back to - he discusses this in the interview with Frank Kofsky - and it seems likely that we heard him playing on that same mouthpiece. Photographs show that there was one microphone for the horns and perhaps there was one on the piano, but most of what we were hearing was the acoustic sound of the band in the room. I have listened to all the recordings from that tour that have been issued since 1961 but there are none from the UK concerts.

If Coltrane had lived he would have been 90 this year. Now - thanks to Stephen Vitkovitch - John Russell, John Edwards and I are going to record in that same cinema. It has had the usual chequered life of classic old cinemas of the post war era in the meantime, but the resonances of that day in 1961 will be an inspiration.

LINK: Details of the release from www.byrdout.com

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