The conception of Downbeat’s blindfold test was putting some records on in front of a jazz artist (without telling the interviewee which record it is) and investigating his knowledge of jazz history and the way his colleagues are playing, and getting into his understanding of other jazz musicians’ styles and the way they interpret the familiar tunes. Most of the time the results of this testing is very moving. Beside the point of guessing the recorded artist and the musicians, the way here Coltrane or anybody else unveil their thoughts about jazz when they are listening to the tune is exactly like being inside the jazzman’s head. It’s a tense oral history that is creating in moments, while somebody’s blowing a horn or swinging on a keyboard. I remember one of the best Blindfold tests was Coleman Hawkins’s, when they play one of his own records from Fletcher Henderson days and he said something like this: “Shit man! Is that me playing this awful thing? I can’t bear it. Turn it off man!”
Blindfold Test: John Coltrane
1. Woody Herman. Crazy Rhythm (Everest Stereo). Paul Quinichette, tenor saxophone; Ralph Burns, arranger.
J. C.: Well, I would give it three stars on the merit of the arrangement, which I thought was good. The solos were good, and the band played good. As to who it was, I don’t know…The tenor sounded like Paul Quinichette, and I liked that because I like the melodic way he plays. The sound of the recording was very good. I’d like to make a guess about that arrangement—it sounded like the kind of writing Hefti does—maybe it was Basie’s band.
2. Art Farmer Quintet. Mox Nix (United Artists). Benny Golson, tenor; Farmer, trumpet, composer, arranger; Bill Evans, piano; Addison Farmer, bass; Dave Bailey, drums.
J. C.: That’s a pretty lively sound. That tenor man could have been Benny Golson, and the trumpeter, I don’t know…It sounded like Art Farmer a little bit. I enjoyed the rhythm section—they got a nice feeling, but I don’t know who they were. The composition was a minor blues—which is always good. The figures on it were pretty good, too. I would give it three-and-a-half.
3. Horace Silver Quintet. Soulville (Blue Note). Silver, piano, composer; Hank Mobley, tenor; Art Farmer, trumpet.
J. C.: Horace…Is that Soulville? I’ve heard that—I think I have the record. Horace gave me that piece of music some time ago…I asked him to give me some things that I might like to record and that was one of them. I’ve never got around to recording it yet, though. I like the piece tremendously—the composition is great. It has more in it than just "play the figure and then we all blow." It has a lot of imgination. The solos are all good…I think it’s Hank Mobley and Art Farmer. I’ll give that four-and-a-half stars.
4. Coleman Hawkins. Chant (Riverside). Idrees Sulieman, trumpet; J.J. Johnson, trombone; Hank Jones, piano; Oscar Pettiford, bass.
J. C.: Well, the record had a genuine jazz feeling. It sounded like Coleman Hawkins…I think it was Clark Terry on trumpet, but I don’t know. The ‘bone was good, but I don’t know who it was. I think the piano was very good…I’ll venture one guess: Hank Jones. It sounded like Oscar Pettiford and was a very good bass solo. And Bean—he’s one of the kind of guys—he played well, but I wanted to hear some more from him…I was expecting some more. When I first started listening to jazz, I heard Lester Young before I heard Bean. When I did hear Hawkins, I appreciated him, but I didn’t hear him as much as I did Lester…Maybe it was because all we were getting then was the Basie band. I went through Lester Young and on to Charlie Parker, but after that I started listening to others—I listened to Bean and realized what a great influence he was on the people I’d been listening to. Three and a half.
5. Ben Webster–Art Tatum Quartet. Have You Met Miss Jones? (Verve).
J. C.: That must be Ben Webster, and the piano, I don’t know. I thought it was Art Tatum…I don’t know anybody else who plays like that, but still I was waiting for that thunderous thing from him, and it didn’t come. Maybe he just didn’t feel like it then The sound of that tenor…I wish he’d show me how to make a sound like that. I’ve got to call him up and talk to him! I’ll give that four stars…I like the atmosphere of the record—the whole thing I got from it. What they do for the song is artistic, and it’s a good tune.
6. Toshiko Akiyoshi. Broadway (Metrojazz). Bobby Jaspar, tenor; Rene Thomas, guitar.
J. C.: You’ve got me guessing all the way down on this one, but it’s a good swinging side and lively. I thought at first the tenor was Zoot, and then I thought, no. If it isn’t Zoot, I don’t know who it could be. All the solos were good…The guitar player was pretty good. I’d give the record three stars on it liveliness and for the solos.
7. Chet Baker. Fair Weather (Riverside). Johnny Griffin, tenor; Benny Golson, composer.
J. C.: That was Johnny Griffin, and I didn’t recognize anybody else. The writing sounded something like Benny Golson…I like the figure and that melody. The solos were good, but I don’t know…Sometimes it’s hard to interpret changes. I don’t know whether it was taken from another song or if it was a song itself. Maybe the guys could have worked it over a little longer and interpreted it a little truer. What I heard on the line as it was written, I didn’t hear after the solos started…It was good, though—I would give it three stars, on the strength of the composer mostly, and the solos secondly…I didn’t recognize the trumpeter.