Suraya Mohamed for NPR MUSIC –
Yes, Ravi Coltrane is the son of the John Coltrane, one of the most famous and important jazz saxophonists and composers of all time. He’s also the son of multi-instrumentalist, composer and spiritual leader Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda. (In fact, all members of the band here are performing artists in their own right and come from artistically rich families; drummer E.J. Strickland is the brother of saxophonist Marcus Strickland; Adam Rogers parents performed on Broadway and Yunior Terry is Yosvany Terri’s brother, both heirs to Cuban music royalty.) But pedigree is not what makes him (or them) special. It’s the ability to draw on ideology and theory from the past and give already-great music the room to transform. As Coltrane told NPR back in 2013:
As improvisers, that’s really our goal — not just to state the themes that people wrote. In the course of time, night after night you search for better ways to present the music.
Not only did Coltrane and his band offer new interpretations from his repertoire, but varied the rhythmic presentations of the numbers, too. The first song in the set, “Cobbs Hill,” was written by Coltrane’s good friend and colleague Ralph Alessi. Beginning with Yunior Terry’s funky and deliberate bass line, further enhanced by intentional drum rolls the 2/4 time signature, two beats per measure, captures a march-like proclamation.
The second song is Coltrane’s own composition, “Three For Thee”, a fan favorite from the 1998 Moving Pictures album; the original recording included Ralph Alessi on trumpet. Only 32 years old when that record was released, it could be taken as a sign of things to come: Ravi Coltrane, an old soul in a young body, mature and capable of creating work so robust and important. Almost 20 years later, hearing that music again here, even better, is affirming and a testament to Coltrane’s ever-evolving artistic journey. And E.J. Strickland’s opening drum intro couldn’t be more spunky; he teases the audience into the groove with effortless, intentional punctuations.
This performance is likely to be a historical footnote in the book of great jazz moments. The quartet demonstrates its marvelous technical capabilities and keen musicianship, and their imaginative interpretations suggest strength and resolve, a fluid embodiment of question and answer, push and pull, and rising action followed by hypnagogic culmination.
- “Cobbs Hill”
- “In Three For Thee”
Watch the performance at NPR Music