By Chris Barton
August 1, 2012
Going into music couldn’t have been the easiest path for Ravi Coltrane, son of two game-changing musicians in harpist-pianist Alice Coltrane and husband John, who essentially cowrote the definition of what the jazz saxophone sounds like. And just to make his path that much more challenging in terms of inviting comparisons, Coltrane even decided to pick up his father’s instrument.
And yet after five albums operating and even excelling in that considerable shadow, Coltrane has changed things up for his latest release. Released last month, “Spirit Fiction” is Coltrane’s first recording for Blue Note Records, and his first since his 1998 debut to feature an outside producer in fellow saxophonist Joe Lovano, who shared production duties along with Coltrane.
The change suits Coltrane nicely. Backed by two distinct ensembles, Coltrane sounds livlier and more expressive than ever before. Over a roiling, structure-defying rhythmic bed from drummer E.J. Strickland and bassist Drew Gress on opening track “Roads Cross,” Coltrane darts up and down his horn on an expressive search in a way that points to his father’s explorations but isn’t derivative of it. With Eric Harland at his back, trumpter Ralph Alessi forms an acrobatic counterpoint to Coltrane on the knotty “Klepto” and the off-kilter swing of “Check Out Time,” a driving, twisting workout spiked by a forceful guest spot by Lovano. Still restless and eager to move ahead, Ravi Coltrane will never stop being his father’s son, and jazz fans can certainly be grateful for that.Back to main page