Montreal Jazz Festival Day 9: July 6, 2007
Charging out of the gate at a fast clip, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and his quartetpianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Drew Gress and drummer EJ Stricklanddemonstrated the kind of take-no-prisoners collective intuition that only develops from working together on a regular basis. The quartet was featured on Coltrane's In Flux (Savoy Jazz, 2005), but the son of saxophone legend John Coltrane and recently departed harpist/pianist Alice Coltrane delivered a stunning first set that mixed original compositions with sourced material well- and lesser-known.
Coltrane opened with trumpeter Ralph Alessi's "One Wheeler Will," a fiery tune written for the saxophonist's son. It immediately established the modus operandi for the first setspectacular interplay, muscular yet always focused solos and, in Coltrane's case, a developing personal sound that has little to do with his late father and more to do with the tone and approach of saxophonists Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter. The entire band was impressive, from Perdomo's empathic support to Gress' robust anchor and Strickland's loose but powerfully interactive connection to his band mates. It was a terrific opening that provided strong solo opportunities for everyone
Coltrane drew on his father's vast repertoire for a relaxed take on the late saxophone icon's "Narcine," a song that was not only a debut for Ravi on his first album, Moving Pictures (RCA, 1998), but a recorded debut for the song itself, which hasn't appeared on any of his late father's releases. It may have been less of a barn-burner than "One Wheeler Will," but it still featured a particularly centered solo from Perdomo, who's an equally rising star on his own Focus Point (RKM, 2005) and Awareness (RKM, 2006). Gress was equally focused, combining the kind of purposeful construction that made his own 7 Black Butterlies (Premonition, 2005) one of the best releases of that year.
A rearranged version of Thelonious Monk's classic "Epistrophy" may have opened up to a solo section that swung more concertedly, but Coltrane's reworking of the familiar theme remained, in its idiosyncrasy, true to Monk's own eccentricities. Coltrane's solo was impressive in its stretching and twisting of the song's core while never losing site of it. A nuanced yet dramatic look at Coltrane's rubato tone poem from In Flux , "For ZoÃ,"" presented an even freer side to the quartet, with an approach that, while fundamental to the group at all times, was especially liberal here due to the open-ended nature of the tune itself.
l:r: Luis Perdomo, Drew Gress, Ravi Coltrane, EJ Strickland
Closing on a more energetic note, Coltrane's quartet demonstrated that the jazz mainstream has plenty of room for movement and expansion. In a brief forty-five minutes, Coltrane, Perdomo, Gress and Strickland swung hard, soloed with impressive give-and-take amongst themselves, and comfortably straddled the line between fixed form and greater freedom.
Tomorrow: Chet Doxas Quartet, Wayne Krantz Trio and Russell Malone Quartet.