Ravi Coltrane's fourth studio release, In Flux, is what he calls "by far the strongest work I've done to date." A bold statement, no doubt, though the album's twelve offerings give credibility to his argument. Joined by his touring group of pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer EJ Strickland, Coltrane exploits the group's cohesion: their ability to lock and sustain the strength of the individual as it benefits the whole of the group.
Together, the band is an assertive and exciting ensemble tackling several post bop themes, though no one player, not even Coltrane, can be said to dominate the album's paths. Instead, what is most surprising and most enjoyable about In Flux are the numerous moments where the group's motions are so tight, so responsive, that highlighting a soloist seems a less enjoyable duty than the overall integration of melodies and harmonies. On the all too brief "Blending Times," for example, the introduction of percussionist Luisito Quintero not only adds to the heat of their chemistry; they, in turn, reinforce and elevate his percussive element to a richer context. It is this in this constant give and take, in this sharing and responding, that the album best defines its charms.
Tunes like the bouncy "Coincide," the brief, adrenaline-fueled shots of "Scram Vamp," "Variations I," as well as explorative themes like "Away," "Leaving Avignon," "Variations III," and "Angular Realms" show a band capable and willing to embark on jazz's various tributaries. Delivered with care and warmth, their explorations are inviting and accessible. This should especially be rewarding to listeners unwilling or incapable of taking on the unruly world of free jazz for doses of excitement and unpredictability.
Though far more "in" than "out," In Flux nevertheless pushes the edge, challenges the quaint and the predictable with fresh perspectives that are sorely needed in jazz. This is Ravi Coltrane's first release on the venerable Savoy label. As far as it being the strongest work of his young career, it is hard to refute his assertions after experiencing In Flux.
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