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Ravi Coltrane: Spirit Fiction

Troy Collins By

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The second son of John Coltrane and Alice Coltrane, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane was born two years before his father's death in 1967. Despite his imposing lineage, Coltrane's steady rise to prominence in the jazz world has been anything but conspicuous; notable stints as a sideman with Steve Coleman, Elvin Jones and Wallace Roney in the mid-1990s eventually led to a series of recording sessions for RCA, Columbia and Savoy in the new millennium.

Spirit Fiction, his sixth album as a leader and first for Blue Note, presents multiple facets of his diverse artistry, realized by two very different lineups. Several tracks feature Coltrane's longstanding quartet with pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Drew Gress and drummer E.J. Strickland, whose virtuosic rapport has grown exponentially over the past decade. The remainder of the date features a nimble quintet comprised of trumpeter Ralph Alessi, pianist Geri Allen, bassist James Genus and drummer Eric Harland—the same personnel that supported Coltrane's sophomore effort From the Round Box (RCA, 2000)—with three exceptionally tuneful numbers written by Alessi.

According to Coltrane, "The title, Spirit Fiction is an abstract turn of phrase that ... ultimately refers to the open ended idea of simply embracing imagination." The quixotic title track expounds upon this concept as the quartet divides in half, simultaneously heading in opposite aesthetic directions—a contrapuntal approach explored to even greater extent on the thorny variations "Roads Cross" and "Cross Roads," where superimposed layering of contrasting pulses and tempos yields intricate, yet swinging examples of post-bop that are as adventurous as they are accessible.

Establishing a historical through line, label mate and co-producer Joe Lovano lends his singular tenor saxophone prowess to the quintet's spirited cover of "Check Out Time," from Ornette Coleman's 1968 Blue Note release, Love Call. Lovano also joins Coltrane and Allen in a sublime trio rendition of Paul Motian's haunting ballad "Fantasm," which Lovano first played on the legendary drummer's Psalm (ECM, 1981).

Gracefully alternating between arcane post M-Base rhythmic experiments and more lyrical excursions (which accentuate the leader's dexterous facility and melodic ingenuity in equal measure), Spirit Fiction stands as Coltrane's most sophisticated and engaging statement to date. Though the shadow of his revered father will always be present, Coltrane has succeeded in establishing a unique identity—informed, but unburdened—by the past.

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

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