Jack DeJohnette / Ravi Coltrane / Matthew Garrison ‘In Movement’ (ECM) 4/5

2488 XIt is impossible to ignore the depth of history that lies within this trio recording. 50 years ago, as a young drummer sitting in with John Coltrane’s group, with bassist Jimmy Garrison, Jack DeJohnette played with the fathers of both Ravi Coltrane and Matthew Garrison. For “In Movement”, this trio’s first recording together, DeJohnette, Coltrane and Garrison touch upon multiple legacies, bringing new life and a free spirit to some classic tunes and new compositions. And although it may well be their histories that initially drew them together as a trio, it is their open minded approach to 21st century music making that comes across in the recording itself. The album features DeJohnette on drums, piano and electronic percussion, Coltrane on tenor, soprano and sopranino saxophones, and Garrison on electric bass and electronics. DeJohnette says of his trio partners; “We are connected at a very high, extremely personal level that I believe comes through in the music.” With the iconic drummer having served as something of a second father to Garrison, and having mentored Coltrane at length, it should come as little surprise that they enjoy an innate chemistry, wonderful in its alluring, cohesive sound. “In Movement” is produced by Manfred Eicher and bares all the trademarks of ECM’s intensely beautiful sound quality that over the years listeners have come to expect.

The session begins in a strong, powerful way. “Alabama” was written by John Coltrane as a response to the 1963 white-supremacist terror bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist church. The emotional pull and intensity of this tune is captured perfectly by the trio, providing the listener with a performance that stands out as not only one of the finest pieces of music on this album, but quite possibly also as one of the highlights of DeJohnette’s long, illustrious career. The drummer’s playing throughout the recording is exemplary, but it is on this track in particular that Coltrane’s soul-searching, ethereal tenor sax, combined with Garrison’s intelligent, spacious and thrilling bass and electronics, work together as a whole in formidable style, creating a uniquely impassioned sound. There’s a tension to “In Movement”‘ the title track, that gradually releases as the trio wind up to fever pitch, with Garrison’s bass lines richly rewarding as it develops into a fuzz-tastic energy that is mirrored by Coltrane’s driving, impassioned soprano sax and DeJohnette’s fiery, yet often sensitive, drums and percussion. The mood is dark, and with an Eastern flavoured backdrop created by the subtle use of electronics, “Two Jimmy’s” weaves a magical spell of its own, drums and bass combining with such skill and virtuosity, one can feel the energy in the room. The mood lightens from this point on, which is fine of course, but the album seems to lose its way a little. The individual performances are still pretty stunning, but there’s not such an intensity to the music which the trio appear to thrive on. The classic “Blue In Green” employs a sparseness that works very well with DeJohnette at the piano and Coltrane’s poignant soprano filling the air with its lyrical warmth. The trio’s Earth Wind and Fire cover “Serpentine Fire” gives room for the threesome to stretch out and flex their musical muscles, whilst DeJohnette’s “Lydia”, a tune dedicated to his wife, successfully evokes a mood of thoughtful reverence and quiet beauty. “Rashied” is more upbeat, but personally I find it difficult to listen past the high pitched sound of the sopranino sax, not one of my favourite instruments. The album ends on a high note with “Soulful Ballad”, a gorgeous piece of music.

Musing upon the studio experience with Ravi Coltrane and Matthew Garrison, DeJohnette says; “I’m inspired by what we did- we got into some amazing sonic grooves. It’s a continuation, a moving of our music forward- music that’s not locked into any one genre. I know I haven’t heard any combination like this. There’s the past, the present and the future in what we’re doing.” And that for me sums it up well.

Mike Gates