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Ravi Coltrane: His Own Man, His Own Thing

By Published: October 8, 2003
His compositions, the intricate "Avignon," the herky-jerky 'the Mad 6" and the driving "Between the Lines" are all quality and fit in with the other tunes, by John Coltrane, Monk, Mingus. The band is tight, driven by the outstanding propulsive work of drummer Steve Hass, a polyrhythmic trapster influenced by" dare we say it" Elvin Jones.

The group "was the band I had until late 2001 early 2002, I started working less with that group and I was trying to put another band together. And then the opportunity to do the recording came up, and I told them I had two ideas for a project. I told them I had an older band that broke up that plays a lot of standard tunes and that kind of thing, and I'm trying to start a new band to focus on original material and stuff like that. So given the choice, the record company was more interested in recording the band that was playing the standards," said Coltrane, adding tongue-in-cheek 'strangely enough.

"But the benefit was that the band had broken up, but we had never really recorded that group, so that's how it came about. It was basically tunes we were doing on gigs. I was playing my music that had been recorded already for my first couple records, and we were playing standard tunes. I definitely get tired of my own tunes, so we"d play a bunch of my stuff all night and then we"d end the gig by playing "Giant Steps" or something that's fun and we all like to play. So we eventually started these kind of bizarre arrangements and spontaneous arrangements that would stick. The record is really about that. The idea was to have kind of a live-gig-in-the-studio type of record."

Yes, there are John Coltrane tunes on it—"26-2" and "Fifth House"—but it isn't a cosmic connection.

"People were saying, "Wow, you finally recorded some of you father's music. What does it mean" Is it a statement" Of course not, it was music we were playing on gigs. I was hoping it would be obvious. The band did three or four tours in Europe, we played in New York a shitload of times; played in LA a bunch of times. That's the repertoire. A little bit of my music and a bunch of weird standards."

The record is first-rate, but the problem then becomes getting it out to the public. Coltrane said the recording industry is in a state of upheaval and it's one of the reasons RKM was formed.

'the industry is kind of falling apart. It's the time for [RKM] now. Every musician alive on every level at every age has their own record out. I don't know how good a thing that is. There's just tons of product everywhere all the time. But there are people who are serious enough and have been going about it for a long time and they have an audience. Hopefully, people will search out their music, regardless if it's being put out by a label that they know is a major or a musician's own label. That won't be such a factor, I think. Hopefully the music will be out there for people to find."

The goal of RKM, he explained—after quipping "rake it in" and after his chuckling subsided—"is to really let guys do what they want to do. Let the music be first. It's not a money-making thing or status-making thing. It's set up just to kind of put music out there. Not my own, per sae, not at this point. It just seems like a natural kind of thing at this point. If you have the ability to do it, it's something that's kind of needed at this point—to put some music out there."

The music on the RKM releases has the air of musicians that are playing without men in suits looking over their shoulders. It's free and devoid of industry hooks, or, as Coltrane called it, the 'the corporate filters applied to recording projects."

When recording for major labels, Coltrane said, 'sometimes the result you end up with is not really what the artist is seeing 100 percent. Not to say that people in the industry don't know what they"re talking about, or producers only get in the way, but most 75 percent of the time that's just the case."

At RKM, "it's produced by the people who play it, the people who write it and the people who perform it. That's really what it's about. If they"re at a place in their lives as musicians, they don't really need the guidance of someone saying, "Wouldn't it be better if you played it this way," or "wouldn't it be better if you did it this way." I think if you do something for 20 years, you know what you're trying to communicate and what you're trying to put out to an audience. It's not to say that these records get made and there's no creative input from all sides. Obviously, I throw my two cents in, the artists throw their two cents in, the musicians throw their two cents in. And my wife and Mike McGinnis. There's definitely people trying to shape the thing, but I think it has it's own soft propulsion."

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