Carri Coltrane: The First Time

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The first impression is very important. Carri Coltrane’s comes with a lot of ambition. Piano and guitar ring the song in, and then it slows down. It’s a vocalise version of “Blue in Green” (called “Sacred Silent Prayer”) and it’s no easier to sing than it was to play. The opening section, played by Miles in the original, has Carri slow and at the bottom of her range, where she sounds quite husky. The words have her despondent at first: “Sadness brings deeper shades of color, shades I never thought could ever exist.” The moody musing continues, then we get a pino solo from Ted Brancato, slightly inspired by Bill Evans but not a copy job. When Carri returns, she tackles the John Coltrane solo, which is sung higher than before – and a lot faster. With it the tone changes: “I have counted a thousand stars and thought of you at least a million times or more.” The husky voice returns, but the hope remains, as she says “I could never ever forget you.” Ron Carter has a stately bowed solo, and then it fades away. An auspicious opening, you might say.

“Love Me Where I Live” comes in relaxed, guitar and shakers setting the mood. Carri’s voice is high, sweet, and fragile, as she admits the power held by her lover, and how she wants more. “You said ‘What can I do for you?’”; her answer is a series of groans. And here the strings come in, with sharp descending jabs of the type heard on old disco tracks. The string part build to a nice quaver, as Carri fades out by repeating “Love me right.”

“Don’t Get Me Started” is a more substantial song on the bad side of love, perhaps the answer to the last track. “Must you drive me mad by being so delicious?” The guitar is more aggressive than before, and Matt Langley’s sax is used to greater effect. His solo is sour and mournful, echoing Carri’s mood as she worries about the recurrence of love.

The face of love changes again with “Something Real”, as Carri makes the demands this time. In a tune reminiscent of Aretha’s “Do Right Woman”, she sets her goal: “I need a real man with real love and a sweet humanity, who saves himself just for me. I need something real.” A simple message; set against guitar and piano, the words are the focus, and they ring true.

The words to “Evening Snow” read like a poem, and that’s how the music is set. The strings are used to great effect: a soft blanket of sound that in time gets thicker and lusher, like the evening snow. Langley’s solo is plaintive and oboe-like, standing sadly as the strings approach. The musicians are the stars of this track, and they more than earn it. “Feel Like Makin’ Love” (the Roberta Flack hit written by Gene McDaniels, the producer of this album) gets a sweet treatment, less aggressive than the Flack version, helped by the strings and Carri’s nice vocal, all in her upper register.

“River in the Desert” opens with introspective guitar and a provocative line: “You were a fountain, and I took a drink.” The desert metaphor is developed as Lewis Nash rings a storm on his cymbals. “Just because I’ve learned to walk, doesn’t mean that I can run.” As Carri learns how much is left to learn, her voice soars, in what might be her best moment on this disc. “Life” is based on “Freddie Freeloader”, and opens with dissonant chords from Mark Lucas’ guitar. Carri begins with the solo, and it’s easily McDaniels’ best lyric of the record. “This is life – don’t you forget it! ... First you come into the world and when you arrive – you are astounded!” The lyric cracks wise, joking at how tricky life is – and then you fall in love! It’s another side of love, from an album that gives us several. But then, that’s expected – there IS something special about the first time.

Track Listing: Sacred Silent Prayer; Love Me Where I Live; Don

Personnel: Carri Coltrane- vocals; Mark Lucas- acoustic guitar; Ron Carter- bass; Lewis Nash- drums; Ted Branaco- piano; Mayra Casales- congas, percussion; Matt Langley- soprano saxophone; Strings: Charlie Ernst- conductor, Maynard Goldman, John Harrison, Jason Horowitz, Greg Vitale, Jim Orient, John Baldwin, Sheila Vitale, Mark Paxson, Robert Curtis, Laura Jackson- violin; Jennifer Sterling, Graybert Beacham, Joli Wu- viola; David Finch, Theresa Borsodi- cello.

Title: the first time | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Numoon


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