Two recent albums explore the music of John Coltrane from different angles, each one with its own level of fidelity to the canonical texts. Guitarist Max Schultz applies his Santana-like chops to several Trane standards on Plays Coltrane. On Impressions trumpeter Claudio Roditi translates Coltrane into the samba idiom. It's a testament to the breadth and appeal of Coltrane's body of work that the two albums have only one song"Naima"in common.
Schultz' ambitious original "Song for John" could serve as an overture for the album since it contains and suggests thematic and stylistic elements (eg, the four-note bass figure from "Acknowledgement") that recall several Coltrane tunes. Plays Coltrane is generally a quartet album but there are a few departures from that format. The ballad "Central Park West" is marred slightly because Schultz and pianist Bobo Stenson initially can't quite get out of each other's way, like dancers stepping on each other's toes. They overcome their missteps, however, and their flawless simpatico on "After the Rain" leads one to clamor for an album of duets. There are no missteps, however, on the excellent bass-guitar duet on "Welcome" between Schultz and bassist Dan Berglund's full-throated, relentless arco.
Roditi's tone throughout Impressions is clear as a bell and illuminates the energy of the samba rhythm on "Moment's Notice," "Giant Steps" and the title cut. There's not a strident or wavering note played by Roditi; he blows with intelligence and clarity and is always in control. The most curious moment on the album, however, involves Roditi's inclusion of "Bye Bye Blackbird." Trane performed his own blistering live version of the tune, but Roditi clearly references the Miles Davis version done with Trane. In ascribing this tune to Trane Roditi's compass appears to be off slightly, especially since he plays the song in Miles' style, right down to the Harmon-muted trumpet.
While there are no jaw-dropping moments here, no why-didn't-someone-else-think-to-do-that-with-Trane's-music kind of inventiveness, both Impressions and Plays Coltrane are solid additions to the ever-expanding list of tributes to John Coltrane.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Wise One; Afro Blue; Central Park West; Spiral; Naima; Song for John; Crescent; Welcome; After the Rain; Mr. Syms; Lonnie's Lament Ingun
Personnel: Max Schultz: guitar; Bobo Stenson: piano; Dan Berglund: bass; Magnus Ãƒström: drums
Tracks: Moment's Notice; Naima; Impressions; Bye Bye Blackbird; The Monster and the Flower; Bossa do Brooklyn; Speak Low; A Ra; Giant Steps; Come Rain or Come Shine.
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