Ravi Coltrane Mad 6 Review

Album. Released 15 April 2003.  

BBC Review

Superb smallgroup jazz from the increasingly individual talent of Coltrane Jr.

Peter Marsh 2003

You might have imagined that Ravi Coltrane would have thought twice before taking up the tenor saxophone, considering he's the son of possibly the most celebrated exponent of the instrument ever to walk the planet. But on the evidence of Mad 6, Ravi's no Julian Lennon or Ziggy Marley opting for a safe career retreading dad's footsteps in the family business; he's found his own voice. There are traces of Coltrane senior of course, but really no more than you'd find in the music of any other tenor player around in the last 40 years or so.

This is a pretty fierce blowing session; the opening "26-2" (one of the album's two John Coltrane tunes) bursts out of the traps like a greyhound on steroids. The leader's tenor wraps itself with an easy grace around the kind of fierce, metrically tricky pulse that Dave Holland excels at. This kind of rhythmic cut and thrust informs most of Ravi's original tunes; there are echoes too of Steve Coleman's cerebral funk moves (particularly on "Between Lines"). But there's a warmth here often absent in Coleman's work.

Like his dad, Ravi has a gift for choosing drummers. Steve Hass propels two different quartet lineups with intelligence and a formidable technique which suggests he's been listening to the cutups of drum 'n' bass as much as Tony Williams or Roy Haynes. Like Billy Kilson or Marvin Smith, he's always up to something worth listening to, while on the slower tunes he's beautifully unobtrusive. Mingus's "Self Portrait in Three Colours" is especially lovely, with George Colligan's plangent pianounderpinning an emotive, consideredsolo from the leader. Similarly Monk's "Ask Me Now" (opening with sweet solo statement from bassist James Genus) gets a sympathetic treatment.

The only dud is a version of Monk's "Round Midnight", which should surely have a preservation order slapped on it by now. Coltrane's arrangement shoehorns the melody into an uptempo latin funk vamp where it doesn't really belong. Nil points for that then(though we are treated to a sweetly explosive Hass solo), but the rest scores a healthy nine. More good stuff from Yasohachi Itoh's 88 label. Worth tracking down.

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