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Originally, “The Believer” was issued in 1964 on LP, by the
Prestige label. Consisting of only three songs, this album
had a running time of less than 30 minutes. The performers
were led by John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Donald Byrd
or Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Red Garland on piano, Paul
Chambers on bass, and Louis Hayes or Arthur Taylor on
drums. Two of the songs were recorded during January 1958
and the third one was recorded in December 1958.

For this 1996 reissue under the Prestige label, two bonus
tracks from a December 1957 recording session were included.
The songs were taken from the album, “The Ray Draper
Quintet Featuring John Coltrane” (New Jazz 8228). These
last two songs were particularly interesting to me. They were
a curiosity, because it was the first time I’d heard a tuba as
part of a two-horn front line in a Jazz combo, or used for
solo improvisation in a Jazz setting.

The results are interesting if not particularly successful, due
to the fact that at this stage in their respective careers,
Ray Draper’s tuba playing wasn’t nearly on the same
level as John Coltrane’s saxophone playing. The tuba
also tended to sound a bit lost in the mix, in both the
ensemble passages and solo ones, while Coltrane’s tenor
saxophone sounded typically strong and brilliant. To be fair,
Ray Draper (1940-1982) was only 17-years old at that time.

The other players for these sessions were Gil Coggins on
piano, Spanky DeBrest on bass and Larry Ritchie on drums.
The two additional songs that were performed were “Filidia”
by Draper and “Paul’s Pal,” a Sonny Rollins tune, the main
riff of which definitely bore his signature. To my ears, this
was fairly straight ahead Jazz of the period, with “sheets of
sound” playing from Coltrane, who was starting to assert
himself as a soloist. Like I said earlier with regard to the
tuba/saxophone front line, these were interesting
instrumentation choices.

The other three tracks on this disc were also fairly standard
for the time. For these tunes, the main drawing card was
Coltrane’s playing. He had clearly “arrived” as a soloist,
and his assertiveness on his instrument commanded the
listener to sit up and take notice. His playing was by turns,
both exciting and compelling.

It should also be noted that Donald Byrd and Freddie Hubbard
were no “slouches.” They both performed admirably, and were
good fits in these ensembles. Hubbard’s playing on
“Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” was his first
collaboration with John Coltrane (1926-1967) in the
recording studio, and it left me with a desire to hear
more of their work together. The rhythm section was also
rock solid and tasteful.

I do have one question about this disc. The back
cover of this CD credits the composition of the title piece,
“The Believer,” to McCoy Tyner, while the accompanying
booklet of liner notes by Dan Morgenstern (reproduced
from the original 1964 LP) refers to the song as “…an original
by ‘Trane.” I’d like to see this discrepancy rectified.

Nonetheless, “The Believer” is another worthwhile disc,
particularly for those interested in charting the development
of John Coltrane.

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