Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ravi Coltrane Spirit Fiction Blue Note 2012

Ravi Coltrane is the second son of John Coltrane, born two years before John Coltrane's passing in 1967. Despite the obvious burden of carrying on the musical legacy left by his iconic father, Ravi has seemingly taken the slow and steady wins the race approach and with remarkably consistent results.  Having pulled some most favorable gigs with names such as Elvin Jones and Wallance Roney it is clear that Ravi is doing far more than simply trying to capitalize on his late father's legacy. John Coltrane would be proud and justifiably so as Ravi is clearly his own man, his own musician and most importantly creating his own sound. 
The sixth release as a leader finds Ravi Coltrane leading by example but with two distinctly different lineups which while a bit cumbersome, works well in presentation as the work is steeped in passion and accentuated with virtuosity. There are tracks featuring Ravi Coltrane's quartet consisting of Luis Perdomo on piano with bassist Drew Gress and drummer E.J. Strickland. The remaining portion of the release is perhaps the most artistically diverse and challenging with a stellar quintet which find Ralph Alessi on trumpet, the incredible Geri Allen on piano, bassist James Genus and rhythm king and drummer extraordinaire Eric Harland 
Spirit Fiction is an odd yet accessibly eclectic presentation of a quartet that at times seems to be a collective of polar opposites as they head in lyrically diverse paths while remaining strangely accessible. A cerebral journey of his own creation is the artistic DNA of the title track. The release while arguable his best seems to have a subtle air of pretentiousness to it's diverse post bop exploratory. Label mate and long time Blue Note fixture Joe Lovano makes a cameo to a rousing cover of the Ornette Coleman tune "Check Out Time." Another sublime highlight would be the trio performance of Paul Motian's "Fantasm."

An intriguing journey into the more modern post bop world where there are a plethora of pretenders and very few artists one could refer to as the "real deal" we have Ravi Coltrane making a musical statement that is long overdue. "I am here."

I want to love this release...I sure do like it. Despite all the high points that abound and they are numerous, there is a slight self indulgent bent that while not meant as an insult to Ravi Coltrane, may be the end result of having to live up to expectations that the average jazz musician may never know.  Coltrane still seems to be stuck in his father's  shadow which is puzzling. As an instrumentalist and composer he has clearly established himself as a formidable talent to be reckoned with now he just has to convince himself. 

3.5 out of 5 Stars with kudos to Blue Note for making an honest effort to expand their jazz base past the great Joe Lovano. Kudos!

Tracks: Roads Cross; Klepto; Spirit Fiction; The Change, My Girl; Who Wants Ice Cream; Spring & Hudson; Cross Roads; Yellow Cat; Check Out Time; Fantasm; Marilyn & Tammy.

Personnel: Ravi Coltrane: tenor and soprano saxophones; Joe Lovano: tenor saxophone (9, 10); Luis Perdomo: piano (1, 3, 4, 7, 11); Drew Gress: bass (1, 3, 4, 7, 11); E.J. Strickland: drums (1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 11); Ralph Alessi: trumpet (2, 5, 8, 9); Geri Allen: 2, 5, 8-10); James Genus: bass (2, 5, 8, 9); Eric Harland: drums (2, 5, 8, 9).