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The fact that he is John Coltrane’s son is really quite incidental to Ravi Coltrane’s work, as From the Round Box, his sophomore outing as a leader, makes clear. Coltrane the younger’s writing and bandleading are quite advanced. His saxophone playing falls solidly within the post-bop mainstream and isn’t earth-shattering, but as an expressive tool and an ensemble texture, it is concise and compelling. Coltrane’s band — now that’s the really good part: Ralph Alessi on trumpet and flugelhorn, Geri Allen on piano, James Genus on bass, and Eric Harland on drums. (Andy Milne guests on piano for the closer, "Between Lines.") These stellar players weave a cohesive web of splendid sound, putting their own stamp on some very diverse music.
Alessi’s tunes, "Social Drones" and "Irony," are especially well constructed. Coltrane’s compositions are "The Chartreuse Mean," with miraculous comping from Allen; "Word Order," a mellow soprano feature with a slick riff built into the form; and "Between Lines," the brief, abstract closer. Wayne Shorter’s "Blues à la Carte" receives a rhythmic makeover not unlike the one Mark Shim, on his Turbulent Flow, gave Joe Henderson’s "Recordame." The Shorter tune and Ornette Coleman’s "The Blessing" are the most burning tracks on the record; Allen raises the roof during her solos. Two ballads, Thelonius Monk’s "Monk’s Mood" and James Carney’s "Consequence," feature sensitive, focused tenor work by Coltrane.
A highly promising player and composer, Ravi Coltrane is poised to go far, for reasons having nothing to do with his last name.