Release date: January 13th 2009
Availability: CD, MP3 Download, iTunes
With this much anticipated release featuring his working quartet - Ravi Coltrane (tenor saxophone), Luis Perdomo (piano), Drew Gress (bass) and E.J. Strickland (drums) – Ravi Coltrane has taken a giant step forward.
Planned initially with input from his mother, Alice, and then coming to fruition after her death last year, there is an elegiac quality to "Blending Times" that pays homage both to Alice and to his father, John. Ravi Coltrane's playing here has never been closer to that of his father, as if for almost the first time he has been able to step out from that longest of shadows and continue the tradition in his own right.
Ravi Coltrane's saxophone playing has never sounded more authoritative. As an instrument upon which you must begin to assess musical quality in the resonance and tone achieved in the performance itself, Ravi Coltrane's playing on this album is simply superb. There is a humanity, warmth and presence comparable with the best of John Coltrane's lyrical playing, as for example on "After The Rain". This is a great achievement approached over the long term of his maturing into this role.
"Shine" and "Still Life", near the start of the album, are halting, meditative, open structured pieces with shimmering piano and skittering drum rhythms setting off Ravi Coltrane's beautiful, rounded sax playing. "First Circuit" is free form improvisation that retains a tonal centre and continues the meditative mood. "Last Circuit", later on the album, is very much "First Circuit' mark II.
Thelonious Monk's "Epistrophy" is used to announce a change of pace to upfront, balls of the feet bop with saxophone and piano solos of adventure and complexity. "Amalgams", beginning with saxophone blowing overtones against bowed bass and piano, develops into a similarly uptempo piece in which Ravi Coltrane's angular modal approach slicing across the backing is almost pure John Coltrane. "Narcined" with its loping funk rhythm and "One Wheeler Will" continue the uptempo approach.
The closing tracks move back into more reflective territory once more. The short "Before With After" and "For Tiriya" - conceived as a special tribute to his mother Alice and featuring Brandee Younger on harp (Alice Coltrane played harp) and Charlie Haden on bass - are open and rhythm-free with space for contemplation.
Definitely a strong early candidate for the best jazz album of the year.
The album is available for preview at the Savoy Jazz site here .
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