Ravi Coltrane: In Flux

John Kelman By

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In Flux is an appropriate title for saxophonist Ravi Coltrane's new release. Between running his own label, overseeing the reissue of music from his late father John, producing his mother Alice, and regular work with artists including pianist McCoy Tyner and saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, Coltrane has the kind of varied life that artists dream of. In the same way that he has been transitioning from an artist on the peripheral of the jazz scene to someone who is now driving it, so his music reflects a constant evolution. In Flux might be a consolidation, but it's also a step forward in an already uncompromising career that suggests, while Coltrane may not be the trend-setting artist his father was, he has plenty to say and has come to terms with the instantaneous responsibilities seemingly thrust on him by virtue of his legendary surname.

While there has never been much common ground to justify direct comparisons to his father's style or music, it would appear that, with In Flux, Coltrane seems to have transcended the stigma of his lineage, adopting its spirit while avoiding the imitative. "Dear Alice" embraces the kind of liberated spirituality of both John and Alice; yet Coltrane's voice remains his own. Less sharp in tone and with a more economical style that eschews his father's "sheets of sound" flurries, Coltrane's approach to this kind of rubato exploration demonstrates a warmth and penchant for sparer thematic development more reminiscent of Joe Henderson, or even Wayne Shorter.

For this recording Coltrane has assembled perhaps the best quartet of his career. Luis Perdomo is, like Coltrane himself, a relative newcomer to the scene. On his own release, Focus Point, the Venezuelan-born pianist demonstrates that he's more than just another Afro-Cuban player; he's capable of just about anything. From the freely improvised miniatures "Variations I" and "Variations III" to his playing on Wayne Shorter's "United," with its fine modernistic post bop approach, Perdomo is an empathic accompanist and soloist whose reach seems to have no limits.

Bassist Drew Gress, who has appeared on over a hundred records since emerging in the early '90s, is another player with a seemingly infinite reach. From the overt lyricism of his own contribution, "Away," to the contrapuntal complexity of Coltrane's "Coincide," Gress' rich tone, strong sense of placement, and ability to emphasize groove without compromising intuitive interplay make it no surprise that he is in such high demand.

E.J. Strickland's combination of supple touch and understated power make him the perfect drummer for the date, capable of building from next-to-nothing into a maelstrom of controlled chaos, as he does on Coltrane's "Leaving Avignon."

With a programme that, while realizing Coltrane's more structured concerns, is freer than anything he's done to date, In Flux reflects the artist's unhurried development as a leader. Having joined over thirty dates as a sideman before recording his first CD, Coltrane makes every step a confident one, and he demonstrates growth with every successive release, making In Flux his most compelling statement to date.

Visit Ravi Coltrane on the web.

Track Listing: The Message; Coincide; Variations III; Away; Blending Times; Leaving Avignon; Dear Alice; Angular Realms; Scram Vamp; Variations I; United; For Zoe.

Personnel: Ravi Coltrane - Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone; Luis Perdomo - Piano; Drew Gress - Bass; E.J. Strickland - Drums.

Title: In Flux | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Savoy Jazz


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