Ok, hear me out on this one – Coltrane knew how to Christmas. “Greensleeves” is a weird song to begin with, especially as an adapted Christmas song (also known as “What Child Is This?”). It’s minor, moody, and not exactly “behold, the light of the world” material. Still, there’s an almost haunting gorgeousness to its sway, which must be what drew Coltrane to it.
Coltrane’s on the soprano sax here on a live take from the Village Vanguard (originally released as a 45 single only, so thanks YouTube). Listen to the way he makes the sax sing, twist, cry, and moan. McCoy Tyner is on piano and his chords just come washing over you like waves. Elvin Jones is on drums making the waves swell, crash and roll-off at the ends, while Jimmy Garrison drives the thumping rhythm on bass the entire time (with a hell of a bass line too).
It’s a feeling. Even if you’re not a jazz person, listen to the way they feed off of and move together on this recording. Maybe not so merry and bright, but tense, broken in places, and beautiful. Dig in.