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2013 Montreal Jazz Festival: June 28-July 2, 2013

John Kelman By

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Rogers—heard recently in Hamburg, Germany, where he appeared with saxophonist Joshua Redman's quartet (also playing Montréal, but here with a string ensemble to perform music from the saxophonist's latest Nonesuch recording, 2013's Walking Shadows) at the 2013 ELBJazz Festival—contributed singing solos and, in contrast, more rhythm-focused features that, when combined with the loose, free-flowing Harland, was what made Lloyd's quartet as much about implication as it was explicit delivery. Time ebbed and flowed and melodies appeared out of nowhere, as in the beautiful medley that somehow resolved into a most tender reading of "Somewhere," from the 1957 Broadway play West Side Story.



Lloyd played the melody with such vulnerability that the poignant hope expressed in the song's lyrics weren't necessary to feel them; it's that very ability to get to the absolute core of a song—whether it's a standard, a pop tune or a Lloyd original—that's made the saxophonist's current quartet so definitive. Whether it was the result of Lloyd winning the festival's annual Miles Davis Award immediately prior to the start of the show, the phase of the moon or some other random occurrence, Lloyd's freedom to explore three very different contexts over three nights commenced with an opening performance that will easily rank as one of this year's best—and act as an early bar-raiser for the saxophonist's entire By Invitation series; it would also make a terrific live album, if only it were being recorded.

A little less than two hours later, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane took to the same stage with a quartet that signalled a significant shift for this progeny of two jazz giants: saxophonist John Coltrane and pianist/harpist Alice Coltrane. That he's managed to come out from under the shadow of such legends has been an accomplishment in and of itself, but with a slowly growing discography, including last year's superb Spirit Fiction, he's also made clear that whatever direction he's taken is unequivocally his own.

Coltrane's last three recordings, beginning with 2005's In Flux (Savoy Jazz, 2005), have largely been based around a core quartet featuring pianist Luis Perdomo and bassist Drew Gress; for his Montréal performance, Coltrane eschewed his traditional piano-led trio completely, recruiting guitarist Adam Rogers, bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Johnathan Blake—heard just a week ago in Ottawa with trumpeter Tom Harrell—for a set that mixed his own originals with compositions by Rogers and occasional collaborator, trumpeter Ralph Alessi.

Rogers' "Phrygia," dating back to the guitarist's Allegory (Criss Cross, 2003), opened the set in modal territory. Rogers—who, after emerging with other now-notables including saxophonist David Binney and guitarist David Gilmore in Lost Tribe in the '90s (with a reunion currently rumored), continued to shape his own career as well as working with saxophonist Chris Potter's Underground (heard last on the 2009 Artistshare release Ultrahang) and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington's collective with saxophonist Greg Osby and bassist Jimmy Haslip, which released Structure (ACT) in 2005—is a player who's always been deserving of broader recognition. Beyond being the harmonic driver for this quartet, his warm-toned, unmistakable voicings created a constant source of push and pull for the rest of the group and, if his instrument didn't quite have the intrinsic range of a piano, it also allowed for an openness that, as intense as the set became at times, still managed to allow it more opportunity to breathe.



Douglas is a relative newcomer, but has already established himself as both a rock-solid anchor and an impressive soloist on albums by trombonist Steve Davis and pianist Cyrus Chestnut. A muscular bassist, he helped drive the more propulsive tunes while being equally capable in Coltrane's more impressionistic reading of the late Paul Motian's "Fantasm," first heard on the drummer's 1982 ECM quintet recording, Psalm—and, like Lloyd, recently collected in an Old & New Masters Edition box called, in his case, simply, Paul Motian (2013).

While "Fantasm" appears on Coltrane's Spirit Fiction, it was the only tune the saxophonist performed from that record. Instead, Coltrane drew from broader sources including his collaboration with Dave Liebman and Joe Lovano on Saxophone Summit's Seraphic Light (Telarc, 2008) ("The Thirteenth Floor"), as well as "One-Wheeler Will," written by Alessi for Coltrane's son on Cognitive Dissonance (Cam Jazz, 2010), on which the saxophonist doesn't perform but does contribute photography.

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