Gilad Atzmon and The Orient House Ensemble ‘The Spirit Of Trane’ CD (Fanfare) 4/5

Now resident in the UK and having undertaken a UK tour during October, Israeli multi-reedist, Gilad Atzman, returns with a tribute recording to the music and spirit of John Coltrane, with his regular band, the Orient House Ensemble, but including the Siganos string quartet. For those younger or beginner jazz fans who may find the work of Coltrane somewhat overpowering and indeed overwhelming, this new offering is far more accessible and provides a useful stepping stone to the canon of work that John Coltrane created and alternating on soprano and tenor saxophones, bass clarinet, clarinet and flute, this provides just a snapshot of how one of the towering figures of modern jazz operated. This diversification is typified by a lovely string-led interpretation of the gentle ‘Naima’, with Atzmon soloing on soprano saxophone, which on occasion is transformed into a high-pitched squeal with strings overlaid on top. Creative licence is afforded on the normally uptempo opus, ‘Giant Steps’. Here the mood is a good deal gentler where the original motif is stated, but then Gilad and band strip this down to bass and soprano, with sensitive use of cymbals by drummer Enzo Zirilli. An original composition by Atzmon, ‘Minor Thing’, fits easily into the greater whole and has a strong modal feel with a Coltrane-esque introduction. Duets were a feature of John Coltrane’s work and a reading of ‘In A Sentimental Mood’ recalls the pairing of Duke Ellington and Coltrane. Piano and soprano combine effectively here, with intimacy created by the deployment of strings.

An attractive all-red gatefold sleeve is opened to reveal personal sleeve notes by the leader who reveals his devotion to Coltrane which began when, as a young musician, Atzmon picked up the saxophone aged just seventeen. With the emphasis firmly on celebrating the legacy of John Coltrane and revealing his gentler side. This new homage can be heartily recommended to a wider public that may be reluctant to approach the intensity and immensity of Coltrane’s work.

Tim Stenhouse