Rings of Saturn evokes a powerful sense of deja vu for Coltrane lovers. Its clear antecedent: 1967's seminal duo record Interstellar Space, with John Coltrane and Rashied Ali. On Interstellar Space, Coltrane blew with fierce emotional intensity, exploring multiphonic and multitimbral effects from the outer limits of possibility. Meanwhile Ali kicked up a firestorm of free rhythm, constantly interacting with the horn and intertwining lines.
After a first like that, it's not realistic to try to attempt repeating history. Fortunately, these two players are wise enough to do their own thing. Louie Belogenis, a masterful tenor player best known from Prima Materia, explores his own entirely distinctive musical ideas: borrowing from the structural focus of Coltrane and the tonal elasticity of Ayler, plus a broad sampling of three decades of musical experience since the '60s. Rashied Ali uses the drum kit to propel time forward and engage in high-level communication with Belogenis. Ali's drumming occupies the fertile middle ground between regular timekeeping-oriented swing and more colorful free playing. It's fascinating to compare this record with Interstellar Space, though it certainly can stand on its own. Refreshingly, Rings of Saturn reminds us that a tradition invented three decades ago remains vibrant and innovative.