Imagine my glee when I discovered on the web a review of an album of John Coltrane playing the penny whistle. I could hardly wait to tell Max. In addition to critical examination of each of the tracks the reviewer explained the circumstances of this rare recording:
As is often the case with revelatory musical discoveries, the story behind the sounds is nearly as fascinating as the music itself. While convalescing at his home in the rut of the liminal period before his stint with Monk, Coltrane discovered an odd relic in a basement crate. The property of his deceased great-uncle Thaddeus, the crate contained an impressive collection of vintage 78s along with various personal effects- among them a tarnished brass penny whistle.
Coltrane, still weak from his recent struggle with smack, used the whistle as a means of strengthening his embouchure and breath capacity. In the bargain he realized its convincing musical potential as well. Anxious to invite friends over for jam sessions, but still too physically diminished to hoist his regular horn, Coltrane set up a primitive portable cassette recorder and single microphone (both on loan from his Jersey friend Rudy Van Gelder) and taped many of the living room whistle performances for personal study.
Shortly after reading this review I was bottling wine with Max at the Ahlgren Vineyards a few miles north of Boulder Creek and asked him if he had ever listened to Coltrane's penny whistle performances. "No way," exclaimed Max. "Coltrane never played the whistle." Ha. Ha. I had evidence Max was wrong and bet him $5.00 that a record of Coltrane's whistle sessions existed, put out by an obscure record label in Provo, Utah.
I lost that bet. In my excitement I failed to note the date of the review.