Sun Ship is one of those records that is both problematic and a classic. It’s transitional, capturing Coltrane leaving behind ideas that were used up, but not quite at the next step, so the music is inconsistent, yawing between the slow marking of time and exciting thresholds of discovery. If it was the only Coltrane you’d heard, you would understandably have wondered why he was such an important musician. In the context of his career, though, there is a depth of meaning from what came before and what came after.
And it turns out that none of us have really heard the record. The original reels have turned up and Mosaic records got their hands on them — they will be releasing The Complete Sun Ship Session as a three-LP set on May 21 (order direct from their site). The same music will be out on a 2CD set from Verve, April 16.
The music is the whole session, unedited, including studio chatter. It’s a chance to hear this music as its been made, not as it was later packaged by Impulse. It’s not always a benefit to get the chaff with the wheat — see the In A Silent Way sessions or the unedited Mingus Ah Um — but in this case, capturing the music while the musicians where trying to figure it out, rather than how Alice Coltrane wanted it put together, will be revelatory.