The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- With two solid Double Plus (A++) sides, this early Stereo Impulse pressing (one of only a handful of copies to ever hit the site) is doing just about everything right
- A great Rudy Van Gelder recording that hits a whole 'nother level on a copy that was mastered and pressed as well as this one
- It’s bigger, livelier, tubier, and with more presence and transparency than most of what we played - the sound positively jumps out the speakers
- "Coltrane's Ascension was originally released with the second take of the music from the recording session on June 28, 1965. These original pressings are commonly referred to as 'Edition I.'"
- "Shortly thereafter, Coltrane expressed a desire to instead use the first take. Impulse swapped out the stamper(s) for one(s) with the first take and inscribed 'Edition II' in the dead wax - ceasing production of the original version." - Discogs
- 5 stars: "...by the time of this recording [Coltrane] had begun to reach the level of 'elder statesman' ... and expand his sounds and emotions. Therefore, Ascension reflects more of an event rather than just a jazz record and should be sought out by either experienced jazz appreciators or other open-minded listeners..."
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This vintage Impulse pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn't showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to "see" the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It's what vintage all analog recordings are known for -- this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it -- not often, and certainly not always -- but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What The Best Sides Of Ascension Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1965
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren't veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we've heard them all.
Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.
Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.
A Big Group of Musicians Needs This Kind of Space
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small -- they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies -- my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” -- create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.
And most of the time those very special pressings are just plain more involving. When you hear a copy that does all that -- a copy like this one -- it’s an entirely different listening experience.
What We're Listening For On Ascension
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight, full-bodied bass -- which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
The Players and Personnel
- Alto Saxophone – John Tchicai, Marion Brown
- Bass – Art Davis, Jimmy Garrison
- Drums – Elvin Jones
- Mastered By – Rudy Van Gelder
- Orchestra – John Coltrane Orchestra
- Piano – McCoy Tyner
- Producer – Bob Thiele
- Tenor Saxophone – Archie Shepp, John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders
- Trumpet – Dewey Johnson, Freddie Hubbard
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
- Ascension (Part I)
- Ascension (Part II)
AMG 5 Star Race Review
Ascension is the single recording that placed John Coltrane firmly into the avant-garde. Whereas, prior to 1965, Coltrane could be heard playing in an avant vein with stretched-out solos, atonality, and a seemingly free design to the beat, Ascension throws most rules right out the window with complete freedom from the groove and strikingly abrasive sheets of horn interplay.
Recorded with three tenors (Trane, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp), two altos (Marion Brown, John Tchicai), two trumpet players (Freddie Hubbard, Dewey Johnson), two bassists (Art Davis, Jimmy Garrison), the lone McCoy Tyner on piano, and Elvin Jones on the drums, this large group is both relentless and soulful simultaneously. While there are segments where the ensemble plays discordant and abrasive skronks, these are usually segues into intriguing blues-based solos from each member.
The comparison that is immediately realized is Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz of five years previous. However, it should be known that Ascension certainly carries its own weight, and in a strange sense makes Coleman's foray a passive adventure -- mostly due to an updated sonic quality (à la Bob Thiele) and also Trane's greater sense of passionate spiritualism.
Timed at around 40 minutes, this can be a difficult listen at first, but with a patient ear and an appreciation for the finer things in life, the reward is a greater understanding of the personal path that the artist was on at that particular time in his development. Coltrane was always on an unceasing mission for personal expansion through the mouthpiece of his horn, but by the time of this recording he had begun to reach the level of "elder statesman" and to find other voices (Shepp, Sanders, and Marion Brown) to propel and expand his sounds and emotions. Therefore, Ascension reflects more of an event rather than just a jazz record and should be sought out by either experienced jazz appreciators or other open-minded listeners, but not by unsuspecting bystanders.