John Coltrane, simply put, is one of the greatest musicians who ever lived. The discovery of any unheard recordings from the immortal saxophonist’s career—cut short when he died at age 40 of liver cancer in 1967—is a big deal. Both Directions at Once is even bigger: an entire session’s worth of material, apparently conceived as an album, cut in 1963, as his classic quartet was approaching the height of their transportive power. What’s more, the sessions include two new compositions by Coltrane, in addition to unheard versions of more familiar tunes.
It’s unclear exactly why Both Directions at Once was never released. According to a New York Times story about the album, after the session, Coltrane brought a reference tape to the home he shared with his first wife Naima, where it sat in a box for several decades. Naima recently found it and brought it to the attention of Impulse! Records, the newly-revived label that released much of Coltrane’s classic ’60s material. Coltrane’s son and fellow saxophonist Ravi was then contracted to curate the recordings into an album.
Today, Impulse! released “Untitled Original 11383,” one of the unheard Coltrane compositions, named for the studio numbering system of producer Bob Thiele. It features the quartet approaching some of the outer-limits improvisation they were doing on stage at the time and would soon capture on classic albums like A Love Supreme and Crescent. There’s also a percolating bass solo by Jimmy Garrison, played with a bow, a relative rarity for him.
Both Directions at Once arrives June 29 via Impulse! Hear “Untitled Original 11383” below.