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Live Reviews

Alice Coltrane Quartet Triumphs at NJPAC

By Published: November 9, 2006

The second attempt with this formula was illustrated by projections of outer space views, terrorist bombings, mortars and missiles, bodies bodies bodies, pivotal politicians and peacemongers of the 20th Century, and eventually, stills and movie clips of religious observances. The assemblage of images was stirring, but the horrors of war were more prevalent and impinging than any of the scenes of hope. Was I the only one who was depressed rather than uplifted?

Speaking of depressing, the obviously skilled string players managed to sound like a second-rate sappy synthesizer. The droning melody was evocative, but oy! the execution. Oh yes, the orchestra and singers were reined in at the end to render audible the drumbeats and the last notes of the grand.

Epic and Eye-Opening

But now it gets good! The stringers and singers exited and the stage was cleared for the quar/quin/tet to launch into John Coltrane's stunning signature piece, A Love Supreme.

Ravi Coltrane was in another world here. He played like a better version of himself, sometimes incanting like his father, but most of the time employing a soft, singing tone on the tenor. DeJohnette played the kick bass drum like a set of toms, while Gress and Workman kept up the famous four notes of the title. In huge Prudential Hall, the group projected a feeling of club-like intimacy. A Love Supreme is a theological epic, and love was what was communicated here in this eye-opening performance.

When Ravi Coltrane and DeJohnette "talked to each other, it was a magic and intense moment. When they weren't doing the gospel-like call-and-response, the drummer played a two-note continuo, the notes of "Su and "preme," eventually building to his only extended solo of the evening, an unrestrained demonstration of versatility and, above all, striking emotion that defied the expected limitations of a drummer's expressive language.

The leader played like a demon throughout her husband's most revered piece. In this hymn about spiritual love, she seemed driven by both anger and love, her face and body language displaying both of these related passions.

A listener couldn't help but marvel how the Coltranes must have felt knowing that millions of fans worldwide have grooved to this music—but could they sense the significance of the immediate moment for the privileged 2500 who were present to hear John Coltrane's heirs' version?

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