Thursday, 12 July 2012
By Bill Nevins
Ravi Coltrane has great fun with music. Very serious fun, but fun nonetheless. He carries the responsibility of a weighty musical heritage as the 46-year-old son of two innovative and revered jazz composer/performers, the late pianist Alice Coltrane and legendary saxophonist John Coltrane. Both his parents took listeners on career-long, spiritually profound musical journeys that leave Ravi (named after the great Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar) a daunting challenge to live up to. Yet, he carries that burden lightly enough to give the music his own personal imprint and original direction.
Ravi Coltrane clearly loves this music, and loves his work. His just-released Blue Note album, Spirit Fiction, (his first on the legendary label) is garnering rave reviews. When Coltrane performs in the New Mexico Jazz Festival, his quartet will feature some of the tunes from this album, as well as others from his considerable back-catalog. Ravi Coltrane spoke of the mystery and joy of making music in the studio and on stage in a recent interview with Local iQ.
Local iQ: How much fun it was to make Spirit Fiction?
Ravi Coltrane: Well, you said the right word, it was big fun. That’s something we should always remember to have, when we’re doing work or music or whatever. It’s supposed to be enjoyable. You’re with people you respect musically and you dig them as people and the energy that you have when you are around friends affects the music. That includes [saxophonist and co-producer] Joe Lovano and all the other folks on this album. Just lots and lots of fun.
iQ: Yes, you know, I see that you are working on this album with basically two groups. There’s the quartet that you’ve been working with for about the past 10 years [Luis Perdomo, Drew Gress and E.J. Strickland], and also with another quintet that involves some amazing people.
RC: Yes, you know, it’s interesting how that came together. I had planned to do some sessions with the quartet, of course, but I also had for a long time wanted to reconvene this quintet with Geri Allen and Ralph Alessie and James Genus and Eric Harland.
iQ: They were on your second album, weren’t they?
RC: Yes, they were on the second record, and while I have mixed feelings about that record, I don’t have mixed feelings about that group and their potential, and I always felt we should reconvene and Spirit Fiction is the first time we’ve had to get together. It was fun to play with the two groups and with Joe and kind of contrast their energies.
iQ: The album is getting rave reviews and Frank Kaplan in Stereolab described it as “a prism” with rays of light coming together. How did you keep it together as one piece with so many musicians and so much variety?
RC: Well, you know we go in and we often don’t know just where it is going to go. It’s only when you’re in there in the studio that you know how it’s going to come together. You have all this material. I always record more than I know is going to go on the album. It’s like a puzzle. You have a little piece but you don’t know how it’s going to come together. Then it does.
iQ: Do you have any favorites among the cuts on the album? I know that’s like asking, ‘what’s your favorite child?’
RC: (Laughs) Well, you know I dig all the stuff. The improvs are always a lot of fun — totally spontaneous, totally untried and it’s nice when things come together in ways that you don’t expect. The solos together are great. There were definitely a lot of creative people in the room and a lot of great ideas going around.
iQ: How do you see the performances going out here when you come to Albuquerque?
RC: Well, we’ll play some things from the album, but there’s no way you can make the result exactly the same. We do a lot of improv in our gigs and we’ll try to mix the tunes in experimentally, and hopefully we’ll get a whole bunch of different feelings into it.
Back to main page