Ravi Coltrane ‘Spirit fiction’ (Blue Note) 4/5

For reedist Ravi Coltrane’s debut on the Blue Note label, he has assembled a start cast of accompanists, although in truth the most convincing numbers are those performed by his regular band members and they are likely to be the ones that the general public sees in live performance. The all-star cast includes on half of the album Geri Allen on piano, James Genus on bass and Eric Harland on drums,, collectively forming a crack rhythm section. For a debut album on a major label the music is surprisingly loose in form and has almost a live atmosphere to it. The majority of compositions are originals and arguably the best are those penned by regular band trumpeter Ralph Alessi. The gentle paced ‘Gentle cat’ with a lovely introductory solo from Coltrane is but one fine example of Alessi’s compositional skills. Best of all is left to last with lyrical soprano playing from the leader on ‘Marilyn and Tammy’ and featuring a fine piano solo from other band regular Luis Perdamo. Ravi Coltrane has acquired a wealth of experience from performing with the likes of McCoy Tyner, Jack deJohnette and is currently co-leader of Saxophone Summit that includes album guest star Joe Lovano and Dave Liebman. On one of two standards, the Paul Motion piece ‘Fantasm’, Coltrane and Lovano trade licks accompanied by piano only. The former might want to consider an entire album of piano-saxophone duets at some stage of his career, mirroring Lovano’s masterful recording(s) with Hank Jones on Blue Note. The other standard is an Ornette Coleman composition from his 1968 Blue Note album ‘Love call’ and the number reworked here, ‘Check out time’, is a faithful rendition that combines elements of free jazz with advanced bop ingredients thrown into the mix. Ravi Coltrane has an impossible task to follow in his father’s footsteps given his latter’s gigantic contribution to the music, yet on this evidence is well on his way to pursuing his own path and his sound is more akin to Hank Mobley than of John Coltrane. A most promising start on the prestigious Blue and white label. Tim Stenhouse

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