“Teo” is a song from Someday My Prince Will Come, a little-known Miles Davis album from 1961. The entire album was recorded in just three days. “Teo” is one of two songs on which John Coltrane makes an appearance. It begins with a kind of clapping rhythm (Jimmy Cobb on drums, Paul Chambers on bass), with a Middle-Eastern flavor, then Miles comes in and has some playful interaction with Wynton Kelly plunking on the piano. He then soars off into high modal territory, both playful and plaintive at the same time.
Just before the four-minute mark, Coltrane comes in and from the first note he asserts his authority. This is the mature Coltrane who at this point in his career has found his full sound. He makes Miles sound almost delicate in comparison to his strong, emotive, and longing tone. Coltrane also explores the upper registers, combining brief spurts of fast notes with long, high tones, a sound that evokes in me something of a bird call, perhaps a great gull soaring along a fog-bound coast. But then I live in San Francisco.
Many people have remarked over the years about how Coltrane’s sound, particularly in the latter stages of his career, seemed to come from deep within him and resonated for them in a personal way, a way that was often only possible to express in quasi-religious terms. One feels that here in the searching quality of his solo.
Coltrane goes deeper into the song, where Miles seems to float within it. Miles returns to restate the theme, but it almost feels as if Coltrane’s solo is still echoing until the end.