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Ravi Coltrane: His Own Man, His Own Thing

By Published: October 8, 2003
"He was so encouraging. And literally I called him and told him I didn't think I was really ready," Coltrane said. "And I did say it would be too distracting to have someone named Coltrane in your band. I said, "I wouldn't want to bring that to your group and to the other players. And I wouldn't want to bring that on to myself." It was something I was learning to dodge and manage the entire time I was playing. Because my whole life went by before I ever heard 'the son of John Coltrane." As soon as I picked up the saxophone was the first time I heard it. I was labeled the son of John Coltrane in 1986. I didn't grow up hearing that. I didn't have any weird pretense about who I was. I was just me. But people were kind of putting this thing on me and I had to say, "I hear where you're coming from, but I'm just trying to do my thing."

There were several key sideman gigs after Jones, including Geri Allen and Kenny Barron. Also a two-tenor group he formed with Antoine Roney, Grand Central, and a couple other CD's under his own name. His career has moved along well.

Being the son of a legend could have been intimidating, even crippling. But it's something Ravi has handled with comparative ease. He appears absolutely centered and aware of his own individuality, his own potential, his own passion.

'the burden is very exterior. It's not an internal burden within me, something that I struggle with daily, like "Oh my god, my father's John Coltrane so I have to be great." I didn't grow up that way. It wasn't that this man was in my house and I saw him every day and tried to emulate him. Maybe the offspring of some famous people who witnessed them and are kind of drawn into their energy, maybe they end up with more of that internal struggle. I didn't have that growing up. I'm just a guy who digs music. I pick up my horn for the same reason that 99 percent of the people pick up their horns: because they heard some music that turned them on and that's why they started playing," he said straight forward.

"I've had the weirdest reviews sometimes. Everything is directed to John Coltrane. 'the first tune Ravi played he didn't sound like John Coltrane and the second tune he played he kind of sounded like him" What guy in the world gets reviewed this way" But I can't really help that. I can only do what I can do, and hopefully somebody can see that I'm a guy that's just trying to play."

Still, the force of his father is strong, and it's something he continues to deal with, but not out of intimidation or out of the perception that he has to approach the great Trane's status. He separates Dad from Trane.

'the two forces are kind of strong. Anybody's feeling about their own father, especially a father they never knew, obviously there's going to be a strong feeling there. Separate from who he was and what he did in the public sense. I heard stories from my mother and different family members about my father and the kind of things he did as a man and a person and a father. Home movies and photos. Yeah, there's a very distinct line in that regard. And obviously, there's his station as one of the very greatest saxophonists to ever play. He's pretty strong," said Coltrane, adding with a laugh, "and then they kind of meld at times and I really get freaked out."

Ravi Coltrane has come to terms with all of it. He embraces his lineage, but isn't stifled by it. He understands when people bring it up, and is unruffled. There's enough to deal with out there in the world and in the industry without getting genitalia tied in a knot over such things.

"At this point I want to bear down and focus," he said.

"All I know is I want to be doing something that's creative and personal. Everybody that I look at in the past, that's what they did. Monk was not trying to play like anybody else. John Coltrane was not trying to carry on the legacy of Dexter Gordon or Lester Young. He was doing his thing. He loved that music and it was a part of what he did, in a way, but he did his own thing.

"Fortunately the people I associate with and play with today, that's what we all kind of feel, regardless if the critics are buying it or we"re selling records. The idea is to be as creative and as personal as you possibly can. To me, that's what I want to continue doing and hopefully, that's what I will be doing."

Dad would be proud. So would Trane.

Visit Ravi Coltrane on the web.

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