One thing you can count on with alto and soprano saxophonist Sean Khan is that he will never approach a project from a predictable angle. In this he resembles tenor saxophonist Steve Williamson
. Both are among the most idiosyncratic of British jazz musicians as well as being uncompromising exponents of jazz as rebel music. Both first made their mark as bandleaders twenty or so years ago experimenting with edgy collisions of hardcore acoustic jazz and dance music. Each player's cross-genre aesthetic resists easy categorisation and partly because of this each remains a niche figure.
Williamson and Khan have both offered tributes to John Coltrane
. In July 2019, Williamson fronted the student jazz orchestra from his alma mater, London's Guildhall School of Music & Drama, in a concert celebrating Coltrane's Africa / Brass
(Impulse, 1961). It was a magnificent performance which, sadly, went unrecorded.
Khan's Coltrane tribute, the 3 x LP Supreme Love: A Journey Through Coltrane
, is a combination of Coltrane compositions and Khan originals inspired by Coltrane's music.
There are three parts. The Future Present
mostly comprises material written by or closely associated with Coltrane, reimagined by a plugged in, medium-sized, with-strings-and-harp ensemble. Stand-outs are "Acknowledgement" from "A Love Supreme," and "Afro Blue " and "Naima." The singer Heidi Vogel
, a frequent Khan collaborator, features here, on lyrics written by Khan and Oscar Brown Jr.
. The Past
is mostly made up of rocket-fueled small-band readings of tunes by Khan and Coltrane, among the latter "Moment's Notice," "Equinox," "Impressions" and "Cousin Mary." The veteran bop master Peter King
, who passed since the 2020 recording sessions, shares saxophone honours on several tracks. (Historical footnote: When Charlie Parker
's plastic saxophone was sold by London auctioneers Sotheby's in 1994, it was King who gave a live demo to the assembled high rollers). Also spotlighted, the hard-driving pianist Andy Noble
. Whatever the setting, drummer Laurie Lowe
drives all before him. The Future Past
consists of two remixes, by Khan's longtime associate, the broken-beat pioneer Kaidi Tatham, of two Khan originals.
"I made a conscious effort to represent all of Coltrane's main artistic periods," says Khan of the album. "From hard bop, to sheets of sound, to spiritual jazz and finally his last, most experimental and cosmic period. I have never heard a record that attempts to reflect all of the great man's epochs in this way and use the recording artist's autobiography, my own, as a conduit to these ends. So here I am, for better, for worse."
For better, for sure. Coltrane aficionados who enjoy thoughtful and respectful liberties being taken with his legacy will find much to enjoy. So, too, will followers of Khan. He retains his own wonderfully out-of-left-field voice notwithstanding all the Coltraneology into which he takes deep dives, and his originals comfortably inhabit the same zones as the Coltrane classics.
A Love Supreme; Starchild; Afro Blue; Azawala; Emilia's Pick; Naima; As We Came Out Of;
Giant Steps; Moment's Notice; The Savage Detectives; Starchild (Kaidi Tatham Remix);
Azawala (Kaidi Tatham Remix); Equinox; Impressions; Cousin Mary; Equinox (Alternate Take);
Giant Steps Outro.
Collective personnel: Sean Khan: soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, flute, vocals; Heidi
Vogel: lead vocals; Andy Noble: piano; Dario de Lecce: double bass; Laurie Lowe: drums; Jim
Mullen: guitar; Meg Gates: violin; Angela Hunt: violin; Michael Whittaker: viola; Jackie Phillips:
Angelica V. Salvi: harp; Tom White: trombone; Peter King: alto saxophone; Karl Vanden
Bosshe: percussion; Kaidi Tatham: Fender Rhodes.