Ravi Coltrane @ Ronnie Scott’s

Music like Art –food for the soul

Words: Erminia Yardley
Photos: Carl Hyde

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I am sitting on a stool with my back almost attached to the wall, almost touching those iconic photos of all the greats that have played at Ronnie Scott’s. It is Sunday night and the place is heaving, there is not one seat left in the house. Luckily all the corridors have been left free for all the busy catering people who, as usual, are running up and down with trays of food and drinks and will do so throughout the evening.
An evening of music with the Ravi Coltrane New Quartet. They are playing two dates at Ronnies, Sunday 8th and Monday 9th March. Ravi and the rest of the band step on to the stage a few minutes after 8pm. There is much expectation and trepidation, Ravi is, after all, the son of jazz icon, John Coltrane. And there, the parallel ends.

Ravi Coltrane’s New Quartet is:
Ravi Coltrane – tenor and soprano saxophone
David Virelles – piano
Dezron Douglas – bass
Johnathan Blake – drums

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The band opens with a piece by Ornette Coleman “Bird Food”, but by the third track we are presented with something far more fluid, so much so, Kandinsky comes to mind.

A little Art History interlude is needed here.

Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944), the great influential and Russian (then French by adoption) painter, has to be mentioned here.

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(Wassily Kandinsky – Improvisation 27 (Garden of Love II) – 1912) – The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

After spending years at understanding feelings of spirituality as omnipresent in Art , between 1911 and 1914, there came the most amazing development yet. Music was to be fundamental for the creation of abstract art, Kandinsky’s abstract art especially. He wrote: “Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul”.

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Back to the music… Ravi’s voice through his tenor saxophone is tender and night-time adapted. As he steps off the stage to give space to his band members, our attention is drawn towards the great Dezron Douglas. His playing has been evocative and, at the same time, slick so far. By stepping off the stage and letting his band members play along, one cannot help but noticing that Ravi is basically so close to the audience, well, he is actually part of the audience. At one point, he is standing so close to Carl Hyde, one of the house photographers on duty on the night, that the two of them exchange a brief nod recognizing their vicinity…

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Ravi is back on stage, sounding and looking chilled, he is in his element and although he hasn’t played at Ronnies since 1991 (“Do you remember the ‘90s?” he asks the audience with a grin on his face), on ending the first set with a song called “Homeward Bound”, the band has achieved a good fusion.

By returning to the stage for the second set, Ravi has a little chat with the audience. Then the music starts again. Man of the moment is David Virelles on piano, whose inventiveness and craftsmanship, see him surpass his leader… His solos are perfect little framed pictures. Ravi is waiting in the wings again, the band creates more pictures of high quality, one just wishes though he wouldn’t have to step off so often.
The duet that follows between the saxophone and the bass is a little gem as slowly Johnathan Blake on drums joins in and then again David Virelles. The band is in full swing.

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Parallels are bound to be drawn tonight, it’s only human nature, but the Ravi Coltrane “New Quartet” is a band in his own right. With tracks by Thelonious Monk and Charlie Haden and also their own compositions, we are treated with fantastic solos by Dezron Douglas, who has proved to be a killer on the bass and, I am convinced, could also play blind-folded. That bass is in veins. Those strings are plucked and they remind one of the beating of a heart in tune with its soul. Last but not least, Johnathan on drums again, on a kaleidoscopic solo. Ravi has stepped off again and watches from a nearby distance. The end of the show comes too soon. A solid and well deserved applause.

Ravi, do come back soon and, when you do, do stay on stage for a bit longer, please…

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