Ravi Coltrane Spirit Fiction Review

Released 2012.  

BBC Review

Jazz saxophonist evokes his family's fine reputation on this new LP.

Marcus J. Moore 2012

Yes, Ravi Coltrane is related to those Coltranes. His mother was Alice, the legendary jazz pianist whose sweeping melodies injected ambient blots into the overtly abstract genre. His father, John, was the iconic saxophonist whose 1965 album A Love Supreme is one of the most widely heralded classics of any ilk.

So it isn’t surprising that Ravi, the Coltranes’ second son, would dabble in the family business. Over the years, the New York saxophonist has amassed a solid reputation outside of his last name: his wistful style of jazz carries a traditional flair, as if Ravi recorded it in a smoky, inconspicuous nightclub.

With such a strong lineage, he must feel great pressure to create like his parents. Yet Ravi sounds natural here, even if his fluid horn play recalls his father’s approach.

Such nostalgia is the basis of Spirit Fiction, an instrumental album on which Ravi maintains a moderate pace with mid-tempo drum work and restive bass lines. He keeps the mood fairly romantic: The Change, My Girl is a spacious wash of methodical piano keys and sullen horns set atop wafting drum fills.

On Fantasm, Ravi’s solo work ascends to the fore as ivories recede to the backdrop. Klepto is more up-tempo than much that surrounds it, beginning in a controlled frenzy until it crescendos with persistent cymbal crashes amid vivacious wind. Then there’s the swanky waltz of Who Wants Ice Cream, which eagerly builds upon itself until it nearly jumps the rails.

A question lingers: is there a widespread palate for such contemporary rhythms as these? But it’s possible that Ravi ignores such aspirations. At its core, Spirit Fiction is jazz the way it’s supposed to be: cool, chaotic, and unassuming. It’s good music for the sake of good music; a respectable ode to the genre his parents helped mould. Mum and dad would approve.

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