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Vivid Expressions: Ravi Coltrane Live at the Blue Note

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In March of 2024, Ravi Coltrane played a five-night stand at the Blue Note jazz club in New York. I caught the last set on Sunday night. I have had the pleasure of seeing Ravi perform several times over the years, and he is a consistently outstanding performer. He was joined by two talented young musicians with whom he has worked over the past couple of years. Gadi Lehavi played piano, Fender Rhodes, and a Novation—a slim keyboard instrument that he adeptly used to emulate the sound of an organ. Ele Salif Howell is a young long-limbed hyperkinetic drummer. The set commenced with a piece by Ornette Coleman, possibly "Happy Hour," featuring outstanding solos from Ravi and Halevi. However, the absolute highlight was a killer drum solo that incidentally featured a liberal amount of cowbell. It fully met the prerequisite cowbell quotient. The set list included an untitled original composition by Ravi, a piece by Brandee Younger (whose title escapes me), and "Expressions" by John Coltrane. "Expressions," a poignant ballad and the title track from John Coltrane's last studio album before his untimely passing, was rendered with exquisite sensitivity by the trio.

The Blue Note stand featured guest artists each night, including harpist Younger. On this occasion, the trio was joined by Ron Blake, an exceptional tenor saxophonist with an outstanding resume. Blake has worked extensively as a sideman with greats such as Roy Hargrove and Christian McBride, and he is currently a member of the Saturday Night Live band and a professor at Juilliard. Standing at about 6'5," he was a towering figure on stage. They played a version of Alice Coltrane's "Affinity," which appears on the live album Transfiguration,—one of her best. The original features an exceptional hard-driving organ played brilliantly by Alice and dynamic drum work by Roy Haynes. The trio, plus Blake, did more than justice to this excellent composition. Ravi and Blake played in tandem for an extended period, perfectly in sync. Blake then took an extended, blistering solo that was absolutely mesmerizing, followed by an equally magnificent solo by Ravi on sopranino sax. It was an incredible ending to a magnificent night of music.

The slideshow includes a few photos from a performance by Ravi Coltrane at the Montreal Jazz Festival featuring both Lehavi and Howell in in addition to those from the performance at the Blue Note.
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