Henry Cole, Joe McPhee & Ravi Coltrane
Unusually, for the kind of improvised noise-shaping performance that might be expected from this trio, its gig was divided into a pair of 40 minute sets. Although each half was pointed and concise, the usual expectation would be for these free-form extremists to shoot a single, massive load. The intermission worked to their advantage, however, allowing a regeneration of forces, and a contrasting mood of attack. Another expectation could have been the imbalance between guitarists Thurston Moore and Bill Nace, when working with Joe McPhee on alto saxophone. This was the case, to a certain extent. McPhee might have been rationing his blowing, waiting for an opportune moment to pounce, but often the axe men wove self-sufficient tapestries of tonal torment, howling, droning, crackling, clanging, stroking, thranging on a mostly dense terrain. McPhee's chief avenue into this admittedly captivating wall of sound was to concentrate on the higher end of his range, melding in a minimalist fashion, spreading around the general bleed. He was frequently found standing at the perimeter, waiting for some space to enter.
This was the debut performance by this particular trio permutation. Nace already plays with Moore in their Northampton Wools duo. Nace was the more minimal of the two guitarists, spending time with drones and subtly-stroked strings, an acupuncturist's array of sticks and rods stuffed under his thigh. Both guitarists largely remained in their chairs, although Moore would crouch forward to wang his axe at his Fender amplifier, molding feedback constructions. Strumming and picking were virtually banned, with the emphasis on minute poking or footpedal sculpting. The first set was mainly drone and texture-based, but the second opened up with both guitarists battering their strings with drumsticks, setting up a rhythmic structure that immediately made it easier for McPhee to commune. The subsequent escalation was one of the peaks of a second set that was soon to prove more extreme in terms of its angular edges, drive and fury. This is not to say that it didn't recline into a blanket of restrained textures towards its conclusion. Like a child enjoying a tantrum, Moore stamped on two pedals in swift alternation, setting up a clanking toy-box repeat. McPhee eventually ripped up to the heights with a searing solo spiral, operating down in his lower range, now more successfully engaging with the guitar volume levels.
The Ravi Coltrane Quartet
May 31, 2012
Tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane's latest quartet features pianist Geri Allen, bass man Dezron Douglas and drummer Chris Persad Group, The Dautaj, Marcus Gilmore , Coquito, Fri. This Thursday night late set would be the last to have Allen onboard, as she was set to hand over to Aaron Goldberg for the weekend. A robust session of melodic, hard blowing might be expected, and this was ultimately delivered, along with a few stretches of introverted ballad-stretching. Allen's solos, even within the setting of a more turbulent tune, possessed an inner calm, as if she were embarking on a studied journey each time, flowing, decorative and insular. It was Coltrane and Gilmore who were responsible for the outward pushing, the tenor man repeatedly delivering ambitious escalations that invariably swerved away from predictability whenever it looked like a set resolution was about to arrive. The stickman, meanwhile, maintained a constant blur of detailed activity, relentlessly tumbling in midair, loaded with exotic detail.
The emphasis was on Coltrane's forthcoming album, and his original pieceswith a stray contribution from old cohort, trumpeter Ralph Alessi ("Who Wants Ice Cream?")is set to appear on Coltrane's Blue Note debut, Spirit Fiction, released in June, 2012. Despite the smoldering escalation during an extended set (perhaps the reason why the first set had seemingly delayed the beginning of the second) it was the closing treatment of father John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" that emitted the greatest energy. Perhaps this was a predictable ascension, but the composition's immense resonance couldn't be avoided. The quartet deftly avoided replication, retaining structure and essence, but delivered one of the most sidestepping readings possible. Nostalgia was provided, but fresh realization subverted potential crowd-pleasing. The audience was indeed pleasured, but without having John Coltrane's versions triggered too obviously in its receptors.
Photo Credit: Cristina Guadalupe