All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

4

Ravi Coltrane: Spirit Fiction

Franz A. Matzner By

Sign in to view read count
Ravi Coltrane's Blue Note debut, Spirit Fiction, presents the saxophonist in a self-created environment of formal experimentation defined by multiple conceits and constraints.

Coltrane's penchant for this type of thoughtful experimentation has been consistent over his career. With Spirit Fiction, however, he has taken the approach to a new level, deploying an array of recording techniques, compositional approaches, and "process" contexts. The result is an album of great diversity and, considering its quite cerebral architecture, of surprising delicacy and gentleness of feeling.

To support Spirit Fiction, Coltrane enlists both his familiar quartet and, on several tracks, a quintet featuring trumpeter Ralph Alessi, pianist Geri Allen, bassist James Genus and drummer Eric Harland. Saxophonist Joe Lovano, who produced the album, also appears as a guest.

This collection of talent helps provide Spirit Fiction its sonic allure, as well as enabling Coltrane's formal devices to come to fruition. One example of this are the two pieces—"Roads Cross" and "Cross Roads"—on which the quartet actually performs as two separate duos blended together. This concept of splintering and recombination is repeated on the title track; this time, however, different halves of the quartet recorded the piece separately and the two parts were subsequently combined to form an unusual ghostly effect driven by a haunting pulse.

Not all of the tunes on Spirit Fiction are products of this type of experiment. Many, including some of the highlights, present more straightforward contexts in which the group and Coltrane shine equally. Taken at slower tempos tunes like "The Change, My Girl" and "Yellow Cat," composed by Coltrane and Alessi respectively, reveal Coltrane's ability to deliver subtle, graceful solos, as well as his formidable talents as an accompanist, an often under-appreciated skill. Never saccharine or melodramatic, Coltrane's tone and dexterous playing paint nuanced emotional portraits simultaneously serene and heartfelt. This capacity is especially prominent on one of the album highlights, "Fantasm," on which Coltrane blends his voice seamlessly with Lovano's to create a sumptuous reading of Paul Motian's composition, a fitting homage to the late drummer.

Overall, Spirit Fiction marks yet another successful stage in Coltrane's musical evolution. Its diversity and thoughtfulness reveal a blend of confidence and creative assertiveness the end result of which is a deceptively calm, insightful, and wide-ranging musical journey. It is hard, however, at times not to feel that the amalgam of approaches taken indicates that Coltrane is still searching for something—not his own voice, as he has defined that quite well—but perhaps an overarching directional purpose. Having carefully carved out his own path while acknowledging the ever-present specter of his father's stature, a certain restraint seems to haunts the album, leaving the impression of a too deliberate balancing act.

Of course, paradoxically that restraint may very well be part of what makes Spirit Fiction such an unusually composed and actualized work. As always, it will be intriguing to see what direction Coltrane moves in next.

Track Listing: Roads Cross; Klepto; Sprit Fiction; the change, my girl; Who Wants Ice Cream; Spring & Hudson; Cross Roads; Yellow Cat; Check Out Time; Fantasm; Marilyn & Tammy.

Personnel: Ravi Coltrane: saxophones; Luis Perdomo: piano (1, 3, 4, 7, 11); Drew Gress: bass (1, 3, 4, 7, 11); E.J. Strickland: drums (1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 11); Ralph Alessi: trumpet (2, 5, 8, 9); Geri Allen: piano (2, 5, 8-10); James Genus: bass (2, 5, 8, 9); Eric Harland: drums (2, 5, 8, 9); Joe Lovano: saxophone (9, 10).

Title: Spirit Fiction | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Return to the Future CD/LP/Track Review
Return to the Future
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 17, 2018
Read Telepathy CD/LP/Track Review
Telepathy
by Chris Mosey
Published: November 17, 2018
Read The Whole Thing Is Just There CD/LP/Track Review
The Whole Thing Is Just There
by John Bricker
Published: November 17, 2018
Read Haydn: Symphony No. 39, Symphony No. 87, Mozart – Sinfonia Concertante CD/LP/Track Review
Haydn: Symphony No. 39, Symphony No. 87, Mozart –...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: November 17, 2018
Read Rogue Star CD/LP/Track Review
Rogue Star
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 17, 2018
Read Out in the Open CD/LP/Track Review
Out in the Open
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 16, 2018
Read "BooCheeMish" CD/LP/Track Review BooCheeMish
by Chris May
Published: July 10, 2018
Read "Lello's Italian Job Volume 2" CD/LP/Track Review Lello's Italian Job Volume 2
by Jerome Wilson
Published: May 1, 2018
Read "Unloved" CD/LP/Track Review Unloved
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: December 23, 2017
Read "Acknowledgement" CD/LP/Track Review Acknowledgement
by Don Phipps
Published: November 23, 2017
Read "Mandala" CD/LP/Track Review Mandala
by Samuel Stroup
Published: December 20, 2017
Read "Beethoven – Missa Solemnis" CD/LP/Track Review Beethoven – Missa Solemnis
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 17, 2018